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Ten Questions to Ask Your Provider About Your Communications Technology Bills


billing statement
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Any bill for traditional telecom services, mobile services, video conferencing, or other cloud services can be examined to see if there’s a way to make those recurring service charges lower without a noticeable drop in services. The basic questions for any telecom-related bill examination are the same. You do not need to know anything about the billing to start this. If things get complex, you may want to call in the billing experts, but there is no reason not to try this by yourself first if you are game. 

Here are the questions. Good luck finding some wiggle room in your expenses.

  1. Ask the billing entity: Will you provide a breakdown of all services/components of our fixed monthly charge? Frequently the monthly charge is comprised of multiple elements not listed on your bill and shown as one lump sum.
  2. Once you have the breakdown of the fixed monthly charges, ask the communication services provider, “Can someone go through these with me and explain the purpose of each item”? If something is not clearly explained, keep asking. This is the point where someone may notice a billing error.
  3. Also ask within the organization, “What is the purpose of each service item?” The service provider may not necessarily know how you are using their services, but the customer certainly should. It is not uncommon to pay for unneeded services so this is an important part of the exercise.
  4. What are the charges that vary each month and how are they calculated? By how much do they vary each month and what is the reason for that?
  5. Have there been any “one time” (also called non-recurring) charges during the past six months and if so, what were they for? Is there a document that provided us with a quote and does the billing reflect that quote?
  6. What are the taxes and surcharges applied to the bill each month and how are they calculated? Most providers will have a hard time answering how they are calculated, but should be able to find out. Which surcharges are mandated by the government and which ones are not?

    Are we paying a Universal Service Fund charge? This is a U.S. federal government mandated charge that can add 30 percent to your bill – but it applies to interstate services only, so if you’re not using those services, you shouldn’t pay the charge. The rules governing this charge are often not well understood by the communications technology service providers, so mistakes can happen.

  1. Are all services on this bill under a contract and if not, can we lower costs by adding services to an existing or new contract? If the potential savings are significant, this may be another juncture where you may want to call in the experts who know the ins and outs of these contracts and what can go wrong.
  2. Were any services added to this bill within the past six months? If so was the bill reflecting the new charges validated for accuracy. The service provider often offers a “first bill review” when you start a new account, but not when services are added. It is not too late to ask for a bill to be validated by the service provider.
  3. Were any services removed from this bill within the past six months. If so was the bill reflecting the reduced amount of billing validated. It is not uncommon to disconnect services but they continue to bill, so again, ask for a bill review after services are removed.
  4. Will you provide us a list of all separate accounts we have with your organization and for which we are billed on a monthly basis? Many large service providers do not keep good track of all of your accounts, so there may be some bills for services not familiar to you. Or bills not benefitting from your contract rates.

Communication technology expense management consultants spend much of our time focused on a variety of bills, but frequently we achieve substantial savings for our client with just a simple “what’s that?” Here’s hoping you will do the same. 

Wouldn’t you also want to ask about the circumstances that prompted the charges, and whether it’s possible for these circumstances to recur?