Getting advice: Wrangling wriggle room

Tuanz chief executive Ernie Newman says the first thing the relevant people from an organisation facing a telco contract renewal or change need to do is sit down and say "are we a large, medium [-sized] or small business?"

Tuanz chief executive Ernie Newman says the first thing the relevant people from an organisation facing a telco contract renewal or change need to do is sit down and say “are we a large, medium [-sized] or small business?”

What you can get in terms of a contract depends on what category you fall into, he says.

“If you’re a small business, the best you’ll be able to do is make sure you have the right services then talk to each carrier that operates in your area and get quotes.

“You may have some negotiating power, but not much.”

Medium-sized and larger organisations have more negotiating power. If that’s you, Newman recommends using a telecommunications consultant.

“The consultant will look at your phone bills and track usage patterns and advise on whether to buy or lease equipment.”

Larger organisations should do some benchmarking, he says.

TUANZ itself does voice and data benchmarking, with a consultant who surveys businesses on their telco costs, he says.

“The survey results are analysed and can be used as a basis for negotiations.”

A few telecomms consultant specialists exist in this country, such as Teleconsultants, Consultel and Amos Aked Swift.

Doing your due diligence is worth it, “because almost always, the carrier knows a lot more about what’s going on in the market than you do”, says Newman.

The days when telcos called the shots regarding terms and conditions are over, he says.

“As the market gets more competitive, the notion that a user determines contract terms, rather than the carrier, is becoming more realistic.

“Customer-specific variations to significant parts of the contract are obtainable in a way they didn’t used to be and you shouldn’t accept that the small print the carrier offers you is set in concrete.”

If you’re located in a central business district, you have plenty of choice, he says. “There’ll be a number of carriers going past your door.”

These days, the person responsible for telecommunications is usually the IT manager, a change from the past when the two tasks often fell to different people.

“Fewer companies have a specific telecomms manager and very often the IT manager looks after telecomms. Sometimes the IT manager doesn’t have time to build up specialist knowledge and that’s why benchmarking and the use of consultants is more prevalent.”

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