Introducing Tele-Watch: Telecom Savings and Cloud Reporting

For nearly a decade, GILL Technologies has provided telecom savings and management solutions for businesses of all sizes, from international enterprise to smaller ventures. We specialize in controlling wireless costs. As telecom has evolved we’ve developed new and improved services, and now we’ve taken the next logical step: Tele-Watch.

Tele-Watch is our integrated cloud software and comprehensive service program, designed to provide clients with a total telecom expense management solution. We distilled years of client feedback and exhaustive testing into a system designed to meet their needs. As a result, we routinely save clients up to 50% or more on their mobile phone bills.

Tele-Watch harnesses a seamless combination of user-friendly software and in-house expertise based on these pillars:

Mobile Phone Management Software: Tele-Watch’s software side is a cloud-based service available to anyone with a web-capable device. After logging into Tele-Watch you can view your company’s complete billing and usage information. That includes records of your heaviest users, breakdowns by carrier and administrator-defined cost centers (such as branch offices and departments) and most importantly, records of billing errors and other savings opportunities.

Management in the cloud (that is, hosted remotely on a secure web server) means that you never have to employ your own IT or accounting department to install and maintain it. It also means that you don’t need to be at a particular computer or local server – just get on the Web. We handle all maintenance and updates, so all you have to do is provide billing information.

Tele-Watch software is optimized for mobile phone management, but includes tools for other telecom services, including land lines, long distance plans and internet.

Telecom Savings Analysis: Telecom analysts work hand in hand with our software to seek out savings opportunities in an evolving telecom industry. Analysts discover savings on your behalf and integrate them into your cloud reporting, providing continuous savings. We detect errors, unused entitlements and more cost-effective alternatives without forcing you to change your carrier, phone number, handset or services.

Tele-Watch ClientCare: Again and again, our clients expressed dissatisfaction with the level of service major carriers provided, so we developed “next level” customer service with ClientCare. Once you register with Tele-Watch, a ClientCare representative will provide:

  • Tech support for hardware.
  • Liaison services with your carrier so that you never need to wait on hold with them again.
  • Procurement services to help you upgrade and add handsets, headsets and other hardware in a convenient, cost-effective fashion.

Try Tele-Watch now. Head to http://www.tele-watch.com to request a demo or a free 60 day trial. For a detailed walkthrough of the Tele-Watch solution, head to http://www.gill-technologies.com/visibility.php.

Why Offer a Communication Management Free Trial?

Why has a communications management firm that has offered telecom solutions for a decade decided to offer its proprietary management software on a free trial? It’s hard for me to write the answer without sounding like an advertisement, especially since as I write the reasons, it sounds like an ad to me – but that’s not the case. It all has to do with the evolving business climate in the US and Canada. We’ve adapted to it and want to help other firms do the same.

North American business has changed over the last year. At GILL Technologies, we’ve been very fortunate to have a loyal client base. Over the years, we’ve changed to respond to its requests for additional features and services and to keep GILL Technologies focused on best practices. In fact, what began as a cost audit company some 10 years ago has developed into much more. For example,  ClientCare (a component of our service) has become one of our most sought after services. Today, it’s one of the pillars of our business even though it really has little to do with the concept of cost auditing. By listening to our clients we discovered the value in being able to be their single point of contact for a technical support and services.

Tele-Watch evolved in much the same way. Companies need better control over their communications, period; most businesses will openly admit this. One crucial step to improve control is by acquiring timely, superior access to usage and spending information. This visibility gets crucial data to the right people in a timely fashion (not six months later). It drives accountability through the organization, because they know the nature of on what may be the largest business expense they face, as communications is quickly becoming one of the largest expenses possible for any company.

GILL Technologies responded with Tele-Watch: a proprietary software application hosted on the cloud and available from any web enabled device on a secure platform. Tele-Watch is absolutely amazing in how it presents important communications information. We developed it to let clients view their communications usage, expenses and services just the way they need to. Again, we improved a component of the service that really had little to do with the cost audit concept,  but again through our clients’ guidance we developed reporting tools that change the way a company manages communications.

So now, our challenge is to utilize what we created to grow our business. Bear in mind that our primary focus is to save companies money, however. We never want to lose sight of that mission. Tele-Watch is a software solution, but rather than take the typical approach of, “Let’s sell our software,” we made what I consider the bold statement of saying: “Lets give Tele-Watch to our prospective clients, let them feel the difference in single point of contact with ClientCare, and while this is occurring, show them how we can save them money. It’s a Win-Win-Win!”

OK, now I really sound like an advertisement! But when you think about our philosophy, it really makes sense beyond its raw promotional value. We save companies money. It’s our core mission. That’s why clients establish a relationship with us. Tele-Watch and ClientCare build relationships that last for years, if not indefinitely. So why not introduce people to the whole concept while we evaluate the benefit of the relationship in hard numbers?

That’s why we offer a Communication Management Free Trial, giving you the chance to sample our range of services as a prelude to securing long term savings and excellent service. I hope you can see beyond the sales pitch and appreciate the concept. I don’t know – did I fluff it up too much?

Like I said, North American business has changed, and you need the chance to make informed decisions, and today’s technology should allow it. Shouldn’t you able to test drive a service even at the enterprise level? What do you think?

Did You Get an Important Message From Rogers With Your Phone Bill?

It looks like recent activism about telecom fraud is having some effect. If you’re a Rogers telecom customer you probably got a letter entitled “An Important Message from Rogers” with your bill this month. Subtitled “Helping to protect your business from telecommunications fraud,” the letter certainly starts out on a positive note. We’re in the business of telecom expense management and cost reduction services, so the fraud issue – and resolving it so that our clients avoid paying fraudulent charges – is very important to us. Let’s see how Rogers is helping us. (Get the letter and read along if you have it!)

The first three paragraphs summarize the issue. Most cases of telecom fraud involve a third party breaching your phone system to use expensive, unauthorized services, such as offshore pay-per-call operations. They say the most effective defense is “knowledge.” The end user is responsible for monitoring authorization codes and “equipment.” (Why the quotes? Read on.) Rogers will “attempt” to monitor its network traffic.

What does Rogers recommend? The advice is superficially useful. Change your passwords. Educate your staff. Restrict long distance calling. That’s all good. If Rogers believes so strongly in this, why don’t they provide more secure default settings, or a setup checklist with a stronger security focus? Simply put: They have no economic motive to help. Thanks to a lack of regulation Rogers passes most fraud costs on to the consumer, so either way, the carrier gets paid. That’s what we wrote the CRTC about recently. See our CEO talk about the issue on video here (Youtube).

The letter really starts to get odd when it recommends that you “Monitor continuously” – something most end users cannot actually do in any meaningful sense. The average consumer learns about usage patterns through monthly billing. They have no form of real time or daily access to traffic or billing, so unless the fraud stretches across multiple months there is no way to detect activity at “the earliest stages,” as the letter puts it. Fraudsters who want to take you to the cleaners know they’ll get caught, so they often hit your lines for a brief, intense burst of billable activity before moving on.

Who can monitor usage patterns quickly enough to matter? If you answered “Rogers,” you’re correct – except that the letter takes pains to let you know that Rogers won’t commit to that – it will only “attempt” to monitor its network. Rogers also believes that your responsibility for “equipment” – hardware – includes all of the intangible information that passes through it. This is kind of like saying that when the phone rings, you pick it up and someone hits you with a harassing phone call, it’s your fault for picking up the phone.

In short, the letter has some good advice, some advice you probably can’t, and clarifies the ways in which Rogers won’t help you, making this a decidedly mixed communication from the Canadian telecom giant.

The truth is that once you’ve taken reasonable security precautions, there’s a point at which the provider should use best practices to maintain network security. The government should provide carriers with an incentive to do so and protect consumers, because end users are not “responsible” for fraud. Criminals are.

Four Ways to Save on iPhone Bills Now

With its carrier-exclusive plans and heavy data usage, Apple’s iPhone represents a special challenge for telecom expense management. If you’re looking at it from the a global point of view as part of a wireless fleet there are a number of tactics professional auditors can use to make sure the iPhone has the smallest possible impact on fleet billing. Individual users may seem to have fewer options, but in their case it all comes down to using the iPhone intelligently. Let’s look at four ways to keep your costs to a minimum.

Choose Low-Minute Plans: Carriers are usually generous with plan minutes because voice is one of the most economical services for them to deliver, and in many cases people use far fewer minutes than they’re entitled to. AT&T’s plans feature unlimited mobile to mobile at all levels, so think about who you’ll be calling as well, and whether they’re likely to be on a landline. If you’re a Canadian Rogers customer, pick your My5 (your five unlimited local numbers) carefully.

Save it for WiFi: Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, data is far and away the biggest cost pitfall on an iPhone. Even if you are on unlimited data there’s some cause for concern. If you’re a Rogers customer in Canada you may hit the ceiling of even their high capacity plans, and US AT&T customers may hit cost sinks while roaming. Take advantage of the iPhone’s WiFi capabilities whenever possible to avoid excessive data charges. While automatic WiFi detection does drain your battery faster, it drains your wallet less – make sure to keep it turned on.

Fring and Skype: These Apps are powerful cost savings tools whenever you’re in WiFi range (EDIT: and now with AT&T, even within its 3G network). Fring is an application that lets you talk through a variety of applications including MSN and Skype, bypassing standard long distance voice charges. There’s also a dedicated Skype application. Any billable usage is part of your data or Skype charges, (for paid features) making this especially useful for long distance calls.

Watch for Errors: iPhone bills are famous for their complexity; at one point, some heavy users received bills consisting of 50 or more pages. Like most carriers, iPhone plan providers do not have a flawless billing regimen and may make mistakes that add to your bill, such as charging for individual text messages even when you have an unlimited texting plan. Inspect your bill for inconsistencies and don’t be afraid to call your carrier with questions.

Of course, these tips don’t just apply to the iPhone, but many new smartphones. If your mobile unit has WiFi capability and the ability to download VoIP applications take these tips to heart and they’ll save you money. For a business-oriented solution you need to go beyond personal use tips, however, particularly when it comes to monitoring your bills for errors and inefficiencies. You need a cellular expense management plan. Contact us to get started.

An Open Letter to the CRTC: Telecommunications Security and Cost Liability

NOTE: On September 21, 2009, GILL Technologies President George Gill sent the letter below to John Traversy, the Executive Director of Telecommunications at the CRTC, concerning the onerous costs end users bear over telehacking-related charges. We believe it is part of our role as a telecom expense management firm to help protect clients from all unnecessary charges, including those stemming from third party fraud, an issue we’ve covered in the past.

We hope regulators will take appropriate steps to foster a safe, responsible telecom environment. To minimize your own risks, please remember to take appropriate end-user precautions. Change default login information and block unnecessary services whenever possible.

Mr. Traversy and the Commission,

For nearly a decade, GILL Technologies has worked in close partnership with major carriers, including Rogers, Bell and Telus. Thus, it is with great concern that I note recent events that underline the need for CRTC regulations protecting end users from fraudulent charges.

On January 2009, Burlington, ON law firm Martin and Hillyer suffered a $207,000 bill from Bell due to voice mail hacking from abroad. In August, boutique telecom wholesaler Telepath incurred over $100,000 in charges from Rogers over a similar attack

In both cases, carriers took the position that the onus lay with victims who had only a limited ability to monitor usage. In Telepath’s case, its CEO told the Canadian Press (“Stop fraudsters with limit on telephone special services charges, CRTC urged,” Julian Beltrame, Canadian Press, August 20th, 2009) that he did in fact contact Rogers. Allegedly, the carrier did not respond promptly.

Beyond basic, user-centric precautions such as strong passwords, responsibility for secure telecommunications obviously rests with carriers. Under the current regime, carriers suffer a conflict of interest where preventing fraud denies them charges to levy against end users. In other words, the CRTC’s failure to regulate in this area rewards carriers for inadequate security. Currently, there’s no difference between a dollar earned on third party fraud and one earned through legitimate services.

The current system doesn’t work. Informal resolution mechanisms waste time and money. In many cases, they don’t adequately protect end users. Therefore, I call on the CRTC to:

  1. Regulate carrier security practices, as carriers currently have no economic motive to implement best practices.
  2. Establish reasonable limits on end user and reseller liabilities for fraudulent charges.
  3. Implement a dispute resolution system that investigates and fairly distributes fraudulent charges based on each party’s actual responsibilities.

I believe it is not only necessary but practical to better regulate the fallout of fraud in Canadian telecom. I sincerely hope that the CRTC will provide a regulatory solution with an equitable, forward-looking ethos.

Thank you,

George Gill

President, GILL Technologies

Cc:  Dean Del Mastro, Member of Parliament for Peterborough

Who Matters More: Customer or Contract?

As app-centered wireless heats up it’s time for regulators to decide whose rights take priority.

This past July and August the FCC began investigating AT&T and Apple’s practices in earnest, especially after Apple allegedly rejected a Google Voice application (or according to Apple, “continues to study it”) intended for its highly profitable iPhone App Store. This is cause for concern because Google Voice gives users access to a number of features that serve as alternatives to core iPhone features – including the ability to make long distance phone calls for free. From a cellular expense management perspective Google Voice is a tremendous boon: a money-saving utility that can reduce the costs attached to any applicable cell phone plan.

Apple claimed that Google Voice would “alter the iPhone user experience,” something which it works very hard to protect even if it is notoriously vague about what exactly that means. The Google Voice App might have gone too far by offering an alternative UI and by harvesting user data in a fashion Apple considers to be a security risk.

On the other hand, if Google Voice were allowed iPhone users would still be able to send standard text messages and pay for long distance through AT&T’s network if they wanted to. They would simply have an alternative – and of course, that alternative is in many ways far, far more appealing than what AT&T and Apple are willing to offer. The App would have offered more choice – that’s competition at work.

This is an important issue for telecom expense management because it gets best results from a truly open market, where consumers and analysts alike can hunt down the best offers from a broad playing field. If individual smartphone brands are allowed to keep users from taking advantage of apps that provide superior service, it becomes harder to optimize smartphone costs. And if the FCC allows this kind of anticompetitive lock-in to proceed, competitors will be tempted to follow suit, leading to a smartphone market that cripples possibilities for its users.

CRTC Urged to Deal with Telecom Fraudsters

Are carriers allowing fraudsters to attack third party providers?

Ottawa based long distance provider Telepath has asked the CRTC to step in and limit 1-900 service calls to $1000 without prior approval. This comes after Telepath, a line wholesaler, suffered $100,000 in fraudulent bills when hackers attacked two lines and used them to dial bogus pay per call numbers.

We’ve reported on carrier laxness regarding fraud before. Now someone has stepped up and plainly said that Bell, Rogers and other carriers can’t be trusted to protect clients from massive fraudulent billing. Of course that only makes sense – this kind of fraud doesn’t affect their bottom line. In fact, they’re adamant about getting paid. In Telepath’s case, Rogers is only willing to cut the massive bill by 20%. The provider may have to sue its clients for more.

In fact, Telepath’s claims read like a classic checklist of atrocious carrier service. Telepath CEO Dali Bertolila claims he noticed the fraud a couple of days after it occurred and called Rogers to stop payment. According to Bertolila, Rogers refused. So in this case, even client vigilance was useless. Worst of all, the Canadian Press article notes that Rogers claims that its can do nothing to monitor suspicious traffic patterns among third party providers.

Carrier interests appear to clash with the public good on several fronts in this case. When fraud hits, carriers like Rogers get paid. Furthermore, the big carriers know that third party providers exist in large part because of their problems, from erroneous billing to unsatisfactory service, so it’s kind of convenient that they can’t or won’t help in cases where hackers attack those providers. Telecom expense management and third party cellular customer service both exist because carriers won’t step up and provide the service and pricing people need. In this case, it seems to be obvious that Rogers, Bell and the rest are the last people to expect help from.

Four Reasons Why your Mobile Phones Leak Money

As your mobile phone bills pile up, ask yourself this: “Why are they so expensive?” The answer probably is not because this is simply how much your cell phone fleet costs. Understanding your cell phone plans is the first step to cost reduction. Over the years we’ve seen common problems crop up again and again. Here are four of them to consider the next time your bills arrive.

Billing Errors: Everybody makes mistakes, including major carriers like Bell Canada, Rogers, AT&T and Sprint. Some experts have found error rates as high as 30%. Carriers forget to include discounts, or charge you for pay per minute/unit services you never used. This is why a cellular expense management audit is such an important step in finding you savings.

Extra Units: When your employees leave or switch roles, what happens to their cell phones? In a surprising number of cases the answer is “nothing.” The phone still appears on your statement and still costs you money. In some cases, employees end up with two or even three units associated with them as they change roles, get new phones, and never get the new ones transferred or deactivated.

Inefficient Use: Some of your plans for the mobile fleet may not survive actual use. You imagine salespeople who constantly use voice and email to keep in touch with the head office, but it turns out that it’s more effective for them to compile all of their reports and send them from a computer. Some employees with company phones never even use them, and of course, there are always issues with employees misusing their phones. You can avoid this all with a regular usage breakdown by employee. Our telecom expense management software Tele-Watch does just that.

Unnecessary Services: Unnecessary services are a form of inefficient use. In these cases your staff uses company phones all the time – but they don’t take advantage of all of the features you’ve paid for. They don’t send email, or leave hundreds of unused minutes behind at the end of every month. Pooled minutes, customized plans and bundling can all help, as long as you know your options.

While you can combat many of these problems on your own, some of them require professional help. That’s why we’re here. Contact us for an initial telecom audit and we’ll show you how to plug up the “money leaks” in your current billing.

Five Reasons to Get Third Party Cellular Customer Service

How many times have you waited on hold with customer support? How many times have you recited an account number, re-explained your plan and information and generally wasted your time? How many times have you asked yourself if there’s a better way?

Well, there is a better way. That’s us, specifically the cellular customer service that comes with our cellular expense management services. We don’t just do the math to save you money. We want you to feel better about your cell phone plans, regardless of carrier. That’s why we feature dedicated customer support. Let’s look at five reasons why using us as a third party beats using standard carrier support.

We Fix Billing Errors: That’s part of our cellular expense management service, but it’s also a customer support issue. Have you ever tried to contest a suspicious bill with your provider? If so, you know how annoying it can be. We not only fix errors, but we find them for you in the first place.

We Know You: Tired of answering the same questions over and over again? Once you hire use to manage your cellular service you won’t have to. Our representatives get a chance to know you and don’t have to run you through a one-size-fits-all set of technical questions.

Multi-Carrier Support: You never have to call more than one number. We’ll deal with every carrier and service you use on your behalf. And since you’ll have a telecom expert dealing with carriers on your behalf, you don’t have to worry about calls being diverted or stalled.  We don’t allow it. If there’s a solution, we find it.

We Work for You – Not Them: Carrier-based support focuses on minimizing their cost. Our service focuses on getting you the best support. The difference is a simple and powerful one. We’ll pursue options like replacement handsets and service credits that carriers are reluctant to provide.

You Save Staff Time and Hassle: When your staff spends time on hold with a carrier that’s time they aren’t spending moving your business forward. Sign up with us and replace 20 minutes on hold (and then answering useless questions) with a five minute chat with someone who knows you, wants to help you and fights to get you the best deal. Which do you think is better for your business?

Did you know that you can get this at NO extra cost compared to what you’re paying now? As part of our telecom expense management services all of these benefits are part of a self-funded service. That means you only pay a portion of what you save – if you don’t save, you don’t pay. Get a free cost audit to start, and see how much better your savings and service can get.

The Palm Pre at Bell: Can It Take a Bite Out of the iPhone in Canada?

After debuting June 6th, 2009 in the US, anticipation for the Palm Pre in Canada has slowly built, but it’s still a modest level interest – nothing like the frenzy that accompanied the iPhone’s arrival. Palm has a lot riding on the Pre; the company lost ground when PDAs effectively went extinct in favor of smartphones, so the Pre is a last ditch grasp at relevancy. Early indications are that it’s a good phone – maybe even a great one – but in many ways it’s adding its own spin to features that are now so heavily identified with the iPhone that looking at a Pre’s touchscreen is almost an ad for the competition.

Nevertheless, business users who focus on function over form have been slower to adopt the iPhone, particularly in Canada, where Rogers’ punishing contract terms make it hard to justify within a company’s telecom expense management regime. Still, there’s a widespread desire for a “next level” phone that’s a cost-effective business tool and after the spotty performance of the Blackberry Storm (which some attribute to suboptimal touchscreen features) there’s still room for a phone to fill that gap.

Basically, it’s all in Bell Mobility’s hands. Canadians want an iPhone/Rogers competitor with a comparable product, but better plans. On the other hand, there are plenty of Canadian iPhone users despite the Rogers contract, and this may tempt Bell to provide less attractive, expensive cell phone plans. If the Pre comes with flexible, competitive pricing it could become a third pillar between the staid functionality of RIM Blackberries and the trendy but extravagant iPhone. If Bell just exploits contracts and SIM locking to the hilt, then it’ll be another also-ran in a smartphone race dominated by two giants.