Clean-up time! Break out your broom, disinfectants, rubber gloves, mops and buckets. Now that you’ve collared all your employees’ phones and created a more cost effective pool of minutes, you’ve got one more ugly beast to slay: line features. Line features are additional services charged on a monthly recurring basis, such as text messaging, handset insurance, mobile web, etc. Most people don’t need these features to conduct business. I’ll pick out the usual suspects first.

Insurance: Most wireless providers will charge about $5 per month to insure your phone, so if it breaks, you can get a free replacement. On the surface it sounds good, but it’s really a rip-off, especially for executive phones.

Let’s do some math. Assume you have 100 phones, 20 have insurance for $5 a month, and the average cost of a new phone is $100. Those 20 users will be paying $60 a year for their insurance, or $1,200 for the company as a whole for the year. That means you have to break and replace 12 phones to break even. Do you see how unlikely that is? If the phones are used in construction, it’s a different story, but for salesmen, executives, office-dwellers, it’s a $5 per month donation to your wireless supplier. Drop the insurance and eat the replacement charge when it happens; you’ll end up on top.

Text Messaging Plans: This is another common feature. It’s also common to see someone with a 500 message plan for $5 who sent three text messages that month. If those texts would have cost $.15 each, you’re in the hole $4.55. Multiply that by 20 users per month and that’s $1,092 a year good ‘ole Mr. Wireless Provider shook you down for.

On the flip side of that, you may have a user who has no text plan and is sending 600 texts a month and is receiving 400. On Verizon, who charges $.10 per sent and $.02 per received, that’s $68 just in texting for that month. If that’s average usage, you’re paying $816 a year just for that user, just for text messaging. When you see someone texting that much, the concern isn’t just the cost, but if they’re texting that much, are they even working? Dig in deeper on that. A few texts a month on a corporate device is no big deal, but texting like a 14 year old girl is crossing the line.

Pay-Per Services: Although technically not features, this is worth addressing. 411, or directory assistance, can be abused. These calls typically cost $1.45 per. I’ve come across invoices where some users make 20 411 calls a month. Why do they need to make that many calls? Maybe they do. Maybe they lost a client’s number on their way and had to call. But maybe they were calling to get the number of a favorite take-out joint for lunch. Ask what the need is. If an employee can’t justify abuse of this service, this capability can be deactivated from the phone.

Media downloads are another point to address. No one should be downloading ringtones, games, music videos, or anything like that on a corporate phone. It’s unacceptable. A good wireless policy would state that any cost incurred as a result of these downloads will be billed back to the employee.

Odds and Ends: There’s a whole slew of other features; detail billing, mobile web, various data plans. I’ve seen people pay monthly to have a caller ID feature, but their phone had caller ID. The reason is their old phone didn’t have caller ID, so they paid for the feature, but when they got a new phone, they never made the change and probably didn’t even know better. I saw a user with a NASCAR Racing Connection packet. The company was paying for this! Of course they didn’t know they were, but that’s a good example of what’s out there when you take some time and scratch below the surface.
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Jazzy Sourcer

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  1. There are LOTS of choices for free phone-based directory assistance (alternatives to "411"). They differ in some important ways, so try them all out. With this many providers, it will be interesting to see what it takes to be the leader over time...and how the services compare as time goes on.

    I prefer the ones that have operators to help when the automation doesn't recognize me, that are fast and ACCURATE, and that also don't restrict me to only business searches - sometimes I need to find people, too!

    1-800-YellowPages (800-935-5697)
    1-800-2ChaCha (800-224-2242)
    1-800-411-SAVE (800-411-7283)
    1-800-555-Tell (800-555-8355)
    1-800-Call-411 (800-225-5411)
    1-800-Call-Dex (800-225-5339)
    1-800-Free-411 (800-373-3411)
    1-800-Goog-411 (800-466-4411)
    1-800-Info-Fast (800-463-6327)
    1-800-The-Info (800-843-4636)