All companies at some point make use of outside consultants in order to help to manage specific projects and/or reduce costs. Telecommunications is one area that consultants can help your company with reducing expenses, and also provide your company with ongoing support as your telecom needs continue to change and your business grows.
It can be tricky to determine which consulting firm to work with. There are a vast number of choices that are available. A majority of firms are reputable, however, the industry also has plenty of “fly by night” businesses that are trying to make a fast buck through conducing telecom audits that are inadequate and/or hawk telecom services pretending to be a “telecom consulting” firm. Make sure to ask the following questions before you make your final decision on which company you want to work with to help you sort out the bad from the good.
#1. How Long Has Your Company in Business?
This appears to be a logical and obvious first question. However, so many companies do not ask it, or if they do, don’t place a lot of importance into it.
In 1984 the industry was deregulated and resulted in industry-wide massive changes. These changes in the telecommunication industry over the past 20 years have definitely been more significant than those from the previous 100 years. During this time, there were hundreds of new telecom providers that sprung up – with each having their own processes and systems. Choosing a consulting firm that has been around long enough for it to have the first-hand experience with these industry changes will provide you with a great deal of expertise and knowledge when it comes with dealing with carriers.
Select a consulting firm that has operated as a business for ten years at least, and preferably at least 20 years or longer. A company that has been involved in telecom consulting for this long will have a great and successful track record.
#2. What Is Your Telecom Consulting Area Of Expertise?
When you interview prospective telecom consulting companies, make sure you ask them what they think is their strong areas. Prospective telecom consultant tends to assume you have narrowed your own individual telecom problems and/or needs down that you need and want to have addressed.
Although there might not be one specific problem that you can identify, write your overall telecom concerns down. Do you want a telecom audit to help reduce your costs? Is your department needing to be more efficient with its bill paying, changes, adds, or moves? Do you want to replace or upgrade equipment? Are you searching for telecom training to provide to your staff? Are you thinking about migrating over to a VoIP environment?
These six questions deal with various telecom aspects. After you have focus in on your own individual telecom needs, it does become a lot easier matching these concerns with a prospective consultant’s top areas of expertise. Look for as close a match as possible.
#3. How Large Is Your Consulting Company?
The widespread layoffs and telecom “meltdown” during the mid-to-late 1990s led to numerous telecom executive to enter into the field of telecom consulting. Even carrier sales and customer service reps tried out telecom consulting. Those “one-man shops” might offer individual attention and flexibility, however, be careful about trusting your whole telecom department this way.
Those consultants frequently farm out this work to bigger firms, basically acting in the role of a middleman without informing you. Then again, bigger isn’t always better. Big firms frequently only work with businesses that do more than $100,000 in telecom spending per month. Before you contact a telecom consultant, make sure you understand precisely who will be performing the work and then find out who the contact person who is going to be responsible for answering your questions and providing you with updates and progress reports throughout the project.
#4. Can You Provide Specific Results And Case Studies From Past Or Current Clients?
A reputable and successful consulting firm will be experienced with a wide range of industries. When you ask for references, don’t only get a couple of names and numbers to contact. Ask if you can see any specific projects they have completed for customers within your industry or a similar one. If you are seeking telecom auditing services, ask to see specific audit results they have completed recently.
This information should ideally include specific recommendations they made along with a percentage of cost reductions that were achieved once the audit had been completed. Search for a firm with consistent success in various industries.
#5. What Fees Do You Charge And How Do You Structure Them?
The telecom consulting industry of today contains various fee arrangements and fee structures. Valuation of service, as well as the procedures that the fees are structured by ultimately come down to personal preference and they, should be based on the complete agreement between the client and consultant. Fees will generally fall into one out of three categories – contingency, fee or project-based, and per diem or hourly.
Time-based projects may be billed per diem or hourly and might include the expenses of the consultant as well. Fee-based projects are suited for clearly defined ones that might require the most work from both the consultant and client. Contingency arrangements might be the most popular, for telecom auditing in particular.
The contingent arrangement is paid on the basis of the results that are achieved for the client-savings made during a 12 to 24 month period. Beware of firms requiring large advance payments or upfront retainers. Reputable consulting firms recommend the fee arrangement that best suits the project as well as your budget and needs. Very low quotes might recommend “boilerplate” solutions that over the long run might cost your business more. No company is able to survive unless they are paid a reasonable amount of compensation for the services they provide. You do get what you pay for, like in most business scenarios.
#6. Are You Compensated by Carriers or Vendors?
If you receive a really inexpensive fee arrangement quote for telecom consulting services, it is possible that it is a company that receives commissions for the recommendations they make for services and products.
It is important for telecom consulting services to be unbiased and recommendations should be based on the client’s best interests. Very small firms (1-3 individuals) have a notorious reputation for leading customers in the front door by offering low auditing services but then getting you on the back end through recommending their own vendors and/or carriers. Always make sure that you are dealing with a firm that doesn’t have any financial affiliations with telecommunications vendors and providers.
Hiring a telecom consulting can help your company increase efficiency and cut expenses. When you ask the right questions, it can help you to save money and time when searching for the best telecom consulting firm to meet your needs.