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Are Employees Costing Your Company a Small Fortune?
When it comes to telecom costs, many companies in America are being ripped off right under their noses. The culprit? Employees.
"Company workers can knowingly and inadvertently cost a company a small fortune in unnecessary telecom spending", says Karen Thatcher, CEO of TelCon Associates, a telecom management and consulting firm. "Employee abuses can be as innocent as using pay-per-use features that can and should be blocked to outright and systematic fraud. The good news is that all companies can eliminate these abuses with routine diligence, strict company policies and common sense."
Here are some illustrative examples that show how the innocent and blatant employee abuses can skyrocket your company's telecom bills...
Abuse #1 - Jerry is a conscientious and faithful employee, constantly on the lookout for ways to save the company money. At home, Jerry saves money when calling his out-of-state friends and relatives by dialing 10-10-XXX before he dials the area code and number. 3 cents per minute is a much better rate than the 7 cents per minute rate the company gets, Jerry reasons. Sounds smart, until you consider a 25 - 99 cent minimum charge per call is incurred every time a call is completed using 10-10-XXX services. Since most calls from work result in Jerry leaving a short voicemail message, the net rate Jerry is costing the company is 25 cents to as high as 99 cents per minute!
Abuse #2 - Linda's dreams were shattered when her fiancé was arrested for drug possession and sentenced to 3-5 years in the state penitentiary. On a tight budget, Linda cannot afford the collect calls she receives from him to stay in touch. One day she nervously accepted his call during her lunch hour. To be on the safe side, she then allowed two full months to pass to see if anyone would notice the charges. Since no one routinely (every month!) audits the company telecom bills, Linda now enjoys frequent conversations with her incarcerated fiancé from the comfort her desk - compliments of the company! Knowing she can get away with this abuse, Linda now routinely calls a local Date-Line 900 service to "keep her options open" on the dating scene. The cost? $1.95 per minute.
Abuse #3 - Bill has always believed the old saying, "time is money". In fact, efficiency is the one trait Bill attributes to his sales success and company advancement. That's why he uses directory assistance and directory assistance call-completion whenever he needs it - from his desk and his cell phone when traveling. He saves valuable time not having to look up phone numbers himself and then manually dial the number. Bill is unaware that to offset falling rates, telecom carriers have increased fees for these "pay-per-use" charges enormously since the Telecom Act of 1996. Directory assistance can incur charges of $1.25 or more per use. Add call completion to the mix and charges reach $1.60 or more per use. Imagine having a few hundred employees using these services just once per day - every working day of the year!
5 Things You Can Do Immediately To Identify and Stop Telecom Abuses by Employees
1.)Establish a written company policy for employee telecom usage. Make an inventory of all the services and features that your company utilizes, then break it down and list acceptable usage for each company department. For example, sales people who are on the road constantly will have more wireless usage or calling card privileges than someone who spends more time at the home office.
2.)Block unnecessary pay-per-use features on local service plans. With the exception of directory assistance, most local service providers can block unwanted pay-per-use features. Your local package may include some features that were previously billed on a per-use basis. Check with your local carrier to determine the features you want, and then block others that can be easily abused. These would include features like directory-assistance call completion; call return, 3 way calling, and especially 900 number services.
3.)Block all inbound collect calls. Accepting collect calls can be a huge expense if done on a regular basis. Calls that originate from state penitentiaries are handled through a company called Correctional Billing Services. If you find this company name included on any bills, then an employee is accepting collect calls from an inmate inside a prison or correctional facility. If the line is reaching a DID number, then it is easy to track the culprit accepting the calls. If not, it may be more difficult to determine just who is receiving the calls. You can and should block collect calls from being accepted. Call your local exchange carrier and let them know all the lines you would like blocked.
4.)Designate and train one or more employees to review bills on a monthly basis. Most employee abuses can be uncovered with routine auditing of local phone bills. Assign one or more employees to thoroughly review the bills each and every month. In doing so, you will uncover not only employee abuses but also a wide variety of abuse and fraud by the carriers themselves!
5.)Consider outsourcing your telecom department to an experienced telecom bill management firm. Many companies are now utilizing telecom bill management and consulting firms to take care of every aspect of their telecom departments. For a small fee per bill, you can have all the headaches and time-consuming tasks of bill paying, moves/adds/changes, and monthly auditing done for you. They will uncover employee and carrier abuses and fix them as they occur. This kind of arrangement can easily pay for itself and eliminates the need for a salaried employee to spend time reviewing and paying bills and especially dealing with telecom carriers each time a line or feature is added, removed or changed.
Telecom overspending can be a real source of waste in any company. The bigger the company, the chances for employee abuses grow. Make it a point to implement the steps you need to take to identify and eliminate these abuses. Failing to eliminate employee abuses could be costing your company a small fortune in unnecessary telecom spending.
Karen Thatcher is President and CEO of TelCon Associates, a 30 year old Kansas City telecom bill management and consulting firm. For a free CD ROM entitled, Telecom Tips and Strategies for Businesses, visit www.telconassociates.com