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.

Bell Mobility Tries to Turn the Screws on Twitter Users

Canada’s cellular oligopoly strikes again! (For those of you new to the word, an oligopoly is like a monopoly, but split between a few big players.) Twitter is the hottest single social networking application online right now. It lets users post 140 character messages – “tweets” – to the web, and read aggregates of other people’s tweets.

Twitter was designed for mobile users from the start; it accepts SMS content. You can tweet something from your phone and read it from your browser when you get home, or read an SMS version of something somebody else tweets you from the Web. It’s a very handy tool for anyone who wants to send messages across platforms, particularly if they have an unlimited texting plan – but not if they have a Canadian cell phone plan.

Twitter and Canadian providers don’t mix, it seems. First, Twitter cut Canadian SMS users off because receiving their texts was just too expensive. Then Bell and Twitter announced that they’d come to an agreement, where Bell users could once again SMS to and from Twitter.

Ah, but there was a catch.

By February 25th 2009, Bell decided that as a “premium service” Twitter SMS feeds aren’t covered by unlimited texting plans. That means that sending a tweet costs 15 cents. That’s bad. Furthermore, receiving each tweet also costs 15 cents. Considering that popular Twitter users can get dozens of messages in an hour, you’d be looking at huge charges.

Fortunately, there was such a huge outcry at this blatant cash grab (and probably some irritation on Twitter’s part, as they naturally want to reduce barriers to using the service) that two days later, Bell reversed its position.

Between this, charges on receiving text messages and iPhone plan price hikes, we have plenty of answers when people ask us: “Why should I choose telecom expense management instead of dealing with telecom companies myself?” Situations like this and charges for incoming texts show that providers will grab extra revenue any way they can – and you can’t always rely on an angry mob to fix things.

Cost Reduction for the Blackberry: Three Tips

One of the critical issues facing many companies is how to control costs on Blackberries and other smartphones. The basic dilemma arises when you need employees to be able to get business email at unpredictable times and places. Employees in turn want to be able to use it for personal calls and email. This makes sense; after all, why would they want to carry two phones?

Unfortunately, if the device is on your company’s tab you can incur unreasonable costs when an employee overuses the Blackberry for personal email. You may similarly face excessive charges for personal voice and data as employees browse the web and make personal calls. Employees often view personal use as an implicit perk – the upside of being constantly available for work communications.

How do you strike a balance between personal use and business expenses? The most practical solution is to keep your Blackberry fleet on a sensible telecom expense management plan, and use communications management software to track individual expenses. The key to a good plan is to understand what your business needs are, what employee usage is, and how the former relates to the latter. It’s good for moral to allow use and in any event, it’s so reflexive to reach for the phone on hand that it will save confusion to allow mixed use (though there are exceptions, such as high-security fields). Here are three basic cost reduction principles that make things easy for both staff and management:

Unlimited Plans for Mixed Use Functions: One of the first things you should do is identify smartphone functions that have both business and personal applications. When you pick a plan, these are the areas where you want to pay for high capacity. For the Blackberry, that means voice and email. Some companies also need employees to browse the web on the job, but this is usually less common.

Block Unnecessary Functions: Many enterprise plans are designed for relatively freewheeling executive use, but it’s more and more common for smartphones to be front line employee tools. This means that usage costs are not only multiplied by a larger number of users, but that usage policy reflects on your company as a whole. You should set down a personal use policy relatively early. Check against actual activity and employee feedback to see if it needs to be changed. If there’s no justification for certain functions, block them. Web browsing is one of the most common things that companies limit, since modern, rich content browsing can be an incredible data hog.

Keep Employees Informed – and Keep Informed: Once you have a plan, develop a policy and block unnecessary functions, keep your employees in the loop! The last thing you want to do is end up having an unpleasant confrontation because you didn’t make company policy clear. You in turn should monitor usage scrupulously. Identify heavy users and keep in touch with them. This serves as a friendly reminder that the Blackberry or other smartphone fleet is for responsible use, and heads off lax behaviour and possible disciplinary action down the road.

The Mike Blackberry: Is It For You?

Telus’ Mike brand announced its adoption of the Blackberry Curve 8350i – one of the first new Mike phones in a long time. Telus uses the Mike line to sell phones with two characteristics. First, Mike phones are often more rugged than a standard mobile. Mike’s marketing emphasizes this with a “tough guy” ad campaign. The Curve 8350i isn’t really representative of this aspect. It’s a high end Blackberry, so even though it’s quality hardware we wouldn’t advise you to shove one in your back pocket while you do some heavy construction work.

The Curve does harness the other Mike draw, however, which is Motorola’s iDEN technology. iDEN allows the Curve to function much like a two-way radio over cellular lines. This means that users in the network can talk to each other instantly by pushing a single button – a feature called, appropriately enough, “push to talk.” Does this work with a Blackberry’s role as more of a sit-down tool? That depends on what you use it for. If you need total access to office resources, the Curve is about as good as it gets. It’s a premium item, but if you perform proper telecom cost audit procedures you may find yourself reaping the benefits of a better connected mobile workforce.

If you need to rapidly communicate on the move iDEN is for you. This makes it a great solution if you have a traveling sales force. One thing to watch out for, however, is how support for iDEN may change in the wake of Sprint’s 2004 merger with Nextel. Sprint/Nextel is currently the US’ biggest iDEN provider, but it plans to switch to competing CDMA technology by 2010. This doesn’t affect Canadian Mike customers directly but it might influence future commitment to the technology. In the case of the 8350i loss of iDEN doesn’t completely blunt the advantages, as the phone also features off-network walkie-talkie style communications. Americans interested in iDEN may want to give it a second thought, or ensure that they have a way to easily migrate their plans in a year’s time.

So these are the pros and cons. If you want a more in depth view, contact us and we can discuss it in terms of your own cellular expense management needs.

Data Caps and Cellular Expense Management

Data caps became a hot topic for Canadian iPhone users last year when Rogers announced their plans wouldn’t have the unlimited data privileges US iPhone owners enjoy. This was widely viewed as an abuse of Rogers’ effective monopoly. In response, Rogers rushed out a special, cheap plan for early adopters, but if you want an iPhone now, too bad: You can’t get that plan any more. Currently, the plans advertised on Rogers’ site have a 500 MB cap: paltry for a noted data hog like the iPhone.

Rogers seems to be gradually getting the idea that high end cellular customers know they’re paying more for no good reason, however; non-iPhone data plans have gradually improved, probably because unlike the iPhone, customers can take their business elsewhere. In the end, however, the key to managing cellular data expenses is the user. You need to track your data usage and select a plan accordingly. This is especially important if you go with something like Rogers’ Flex plan, where bumping even a bit over the threshold of one tier leaves you on the hook for a significant chunk of money.

Cellular expense management matters in these cases because an analyst is not only capable of looking at your usage trends, but comparing them to break points in pricing across multiple carriers. A Rogers plan might work for you if you’re regularly getting near, but not exceeding, the cap for a given plan. If you’re constantly bumping just over the threshold, however, it’s time to look elsewhere.When GILL Technologies gets involved, this is where we would manage a service migration in the background, ensuring continuity of service while we move you to a better plan (though sadly, we can’t migrate the iPhone to another carrier).

Remember: The best deal is no deal at all if you’re mostly paying for things you never use.

Talking Email on the Go: What’s the Best Option for Telecom Expense Management?

Speech recognition and text to speech applications have had a bad rap in the past because the technology was rushed out the door, before it was really ready. If you’ve been disappointed in the past, fear not: New applications work pretty well. The main challenge now lies in choosing the apps and hardware that work best for you. This is just one example of the everyday issues that telecom expense management professionals like us deal with.

Speech apps are a big deal nowadays because of the convergence of two things: email on smartphones and new restrictions against using your cell phone while driving. Getting on the phone while driving was always a bad idea, but in many jurisdictions it’s now illegal – but now, your phone is a business tool that if anything demands more attention, especially when you’re counting on real time email alerts to keep you posted on company events.

Let’s look at two ways Canadian customers can deal with this. The first is a new piece of hardware: the iLane. It’s a dashboard device that not only verbally alerts you when you have email and reads the email to you, but it can also be fully controlled with voice commands. You can even compose replies with your voice and verbally control other smartphone functions. iLane is currently compatible with the Blackberry OS, but the manufacturer promises support for other mobile email formats in the near future.

The iLane has some notable drawbacks – namely, its $599 price tag and $7.99 per month subscription fee. There are alternatives for more modest budgets, however. Rogers Nuance offers an impressive selection of voice command and text to speech features delivered entirely through software and network resources. Nuance allows you to perform 411 searches, send email add appointments and more with voice commands, and your phone will use its speaker to verbally reply. Like iLane, Nuance is compatible with Blackberry devices.

Nuance has limits; your phone’s speaker, microphone and other performance specs are limits to functionality, but the price wins, hands down. It only costs $6per month. Its service suite is probably not as complete as iLane’s, and you’ll want to play with it a bit to determine its range, volume and whether you want to use a headset for comfortable performance.

Ultimately, your choice would depend on what you need personnel to be able to do, how often, and the social role of the device in your office. Nuance may be the solution for most management staff, for example, while iLane might be the tool for executives on the move, all in the same firm. The choice is yours; the essence of telecom expense management is the ability to make that choice with superior information at your fingertips.

Telecom Expense Management for the Brilliant Phone

I want one box. I want to use it for pictures, phone calls, email, the web and the odd bit of work: writing, spreadsheets – all that stuff. I want to do it anywhere I go, too.

It’s happening in fits and starts, but it looks like I’m going to get what I want. There are still a few barriers. It’ll take a few years for the industry to figure out how to get me fully portable wireless broadband and there will be a painful period where it foolishly tries to charge me a lot of money for it. People still aren’t comfortable with the idea of converging PCs with true mobile devices either, but ultraportables like the Asus Eee are one third of an evolutionary process. The next third is embodied by the iPhone, and represents smartphones with PC-quality apps and an innovative user interfaces. The final third is 4G: packet-based, high speed wireless communications.

Let’s call the result a “brilliant phone,” though in a decade’s time the word “phone” will be an atavism, since voice won’t be anything special, but just one function out of many. It will do all kinds of cool things, but let’s get back down to earth. We’re a telecom expense management company. What will the brilliant phone’s TEM issues be? Here are some educated guesses:

Data Migration: The brilliant phone will be a consumer’s primary data tool. It will have enough flash memory (or a successor format) to take the place of your laptop, leading to the question of how you’ll move this data around when it’s time to backup or upgrade. Carriers currently encourage users to use expensive internet time to send pictures via email and unless you get a smart data plan, charge you by the megabyte for everything else. This method isn’t sustainable. Besides, in a decade’s time you won’t want to run home to a WLAN every time you want to move a substantial amount of data. Ultimately, carriers will provide a solution – and charge for it, too. It will be our job to get you the best deal on their backup and migration services.

Management and Reporting: Telecom management and reporting services will be as relevant as ever in the age of the brilliant phone. In fact, it will be even more important to track usage since everyone will use multiple functions as a matter of course. The era of voice-only usage, already moribund, will be truly dead and buried. While future cell phone plans will be much more generous with data, user management will transform from a straight savings issue to a matter of productivity. You’ll need to know if staff are using the brilliant phone appropriately.

Telecom and Data Billing Errors: Like death and taxes, carrier billing errors are inescapable. They’ll keep overcharging you and we’ll keep correcting them. The brilliant phone will continuously send and receive data from next-generation networks, so outages will be even more of a problem than they are now. You’ll deserve credit for dealing with them; we’ll make sure you get it.

iPhone Madness in Canada!

Well, we got the iPhone in. To use a technical cellular expense management term, it’s getting all crazy in Canada.

Despite my initial skepticism from a telecom expense management perspective it looks like it’s a hit on both the corporate and consumer side of things. Certainly, the iPhone’s capabilities mean the right plan will let it do your Blackberry’s job and give you a bunch of stylish tools, but I was curious to see whether corporate users in particular would tolerate the drawbacks of Rogers’ monopoly. It probably helped that last month, consumer outrage drove Rogers to change its iPhone plans. It looks like the company successfully headed off objections and tapped into the runaway hype.

As you can probably guess, demand is one of the chief issues right now. It’s just plain hard to get an iPhone – estimates put sales at over 90 units per Apple store, per day, leading to chronically low stock. Thanks to our cellular customer service and procurement focus we were able to get them but many others haven’t been so lucky. I have to admit though: Once you see it up close it’s very, very pretty.

Now as I did predict, cellular expense management for the iPhone is tricky business. Rogers has a “one size fits all” philosophy that makes migrating services difficult, though not impossible. You can negotiate plenty of changes if you want to pay $700 per unit, but most customers are in it for the subsidy. If you’re willing to pay for the whole phone though, you can simply add a $30 per month data plan – if you order before August 31st. If you want to pay $199 ($299 for the 16 GB) for the unit you’ll have to get a bundled voice and data plan that costs $60 and up. The bundles include unlimited WiFi access at Fido hotspots, too. When it comes to data usage, that definitely softens the blow.

This is a very general overview of iPhone pricing. The devil really is in the details here, and they include all kinds of fiddly bits around activation, rebates and service migration – but that’s what we do, so we’ll deal with it. The iPhone isn’t the only smartphone game in town by any means, but sure is the most stylish one.

Uh Oh — Bell and Telus to charge for incoming text messages

Canadians are due for some unhappy developments. Bell and Telus will charge for incoming text messages starting in August (8th for Bell, 24th for Telus). Getting a text message will cost 15 cents a pop unless you have an unlimited texting plan.

How will they keep people from being charged for text spam? Blogger Mark Goldberg also raises the specter of text cyber-bullying — mean kids with plans spamming kids without them. It seems that both companies have placed the burden for recovering charges for unwanted messages on the consumer. The other option: Block messages completely. The move seems designed to discourage occasional texters — and grab wads of cash from less attentive customers. It has aroused such ire that Canada’s Industry Minister has asked Bell and Telus executives to explain themselves.

Things like this underscore the need for cost reduction and cellular expense management services. So far, it looks like if you get unwanted messages, you’ll have to fight the telecom companies to get them taken off your bill. If you need texting for business, it’s time to find a cost-effective plan. Our communications management software can help clients keep their texting under control, and customer service means that you don’t have to fight over unwanted text messages — we’ll do it for you.