Cutting costs in this economy is a no-brainer for any small business, and just about every expense is subject to at least a close trim if not a complete shave. One place you might not expect to find any wiggle room, however, is your wireless bill, but upon closer inspection, there’s money to be saved — especially if your company’s contract is up for renewal.
We spoke with Drew Polin, president of OPDecision, a wireless and cellular expense-management company, about ways that you can negotiate a better rate, score free equipment and other cost-saving benefits. Polin’s 10 tips can help you ring up serious savings for your business.
1. Research whether any of the associations your company belongs to offer any negotiated discounts from your current provider. “For example, construction companies typically belong to the Association of General Contractors, and doctors may belong to the AMA,” said Polin. “These are great potential sources for affiliated discounts.”
2. When you’re switching from one carrier to another, always ask for at least a $150.00 credit. “Carriers are aggressively trying to get business, and you want to create a competitive push,” said Polin. “Typically you can get a $50 to $150 credit per employee, although the amount can vary month-to-month depending on the economy. Two months ago, a $150 credit was a normal offer for Verizon.”
3. When you sign up for cellular services, the carrier should always provide a free equipment option. “This across-the-board free option can include anything from flip phones to BlackBerrys, SmartPhones or Internet cards, Polin said. “Ask what free BlackBerry they offer. It may not be the newest model, but you should be able to get the features you need.”
4. Never accept mail-in-rebates for upgrades or new equipment. “Mail-in rebates are designed to fail, but if you’re assertive, they’ll change it over to an instant rebate and apply it as a credit to your account,” said Polin. “That way you avoid laying out a bunch of money and waiting for a return.”
5. Request a demo period for equipment and services before you buy. “You want to make sure that the cellular coverage works both on-site and in the areas where you and your employees travel before you sign a contract,” said Polin.
6. Be careful when making a purchase from your mobile device as it may lead to a monthly recurring service charge, sometimes as much as $9.99. “This is our most under-valued tip,” said Polin. “When making this type of purchase, you’re often agreeing to a monthly subscription service without even knowing it. It can add up quickly.”
7. When traveling outside the country, call your carrier and ask for a roaming discount feature to save money. “Out-of-country calls are very costly,” said Polin. “By adding the roaming feature, you can save 30 cents per minute, and a long-distance discount feature can reduce a $1.29/min rate to nine cents per minute.”
8. When your company’s contract is up for renewal, take bids from other carriers. “Even if you have zero interest in switching carriers, it’s important to do this,” said Polin. “If they aren’t guaranteed to get your business, it keeps them honest and they’ll price your rates and services more aggressively.”
9. Ask your corporate cell carrier if you and your employees are eligible for discounts on your personal cellular accounts. “Cell phone carriers often pass along the same business discount for your personal account — typically up to 15 percent. Why? Because it creates good will,” said Polin.
10. When using an air card while traveling outside of the country, make sure that you add the International Feature. “Using an air card for Internet access when you’re outside the U.S. is dangerous because of the cost associated with going over your data limit,” said Polin. “If you have to transfer blueprint plans, for example, you can get killed. I know one case where a guy got hit with a $35,000 bill.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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