Hiring the right firm to conduct a telecom audit can take the pain out of analyzing system inefficiencies and fees and lead to agreements with local and long distance phone companies and Internet providers that better suit your business needs. Savings from an audit will vary, and there’s more room for change at stores with multiple extensions, phone lines, and numbers. But a telecom audit can save a business thousands of dollars, as was the case for California’s Bookshop Santa Cruz.
To get a detailed analysis of the Bookshop Santa Cruz telecom system, store owner Casey Coonerty Protti worked with Preference Communications, a vendor recommended by several members of the Independent Booksellers Consortium. “A few IBC stores used them and saved a significant amount of money,” Coonerty Protti said. “We saved $5,000 for the first year.”
Preference Communications, which is based in Annapolis, Maryland, consults nationally and provides a free analysis to determine if it can help a business save money.
“I want to help people with an authentic need,” Christiane Carlson-Thies, the owner of Preference Communications told BTW. “If somebody’s setup is good, if they don’t have redundancies, they’re going to hear, ‘Congratulations, you don’t need me.’”
Coonerty Protti worked directly with Carlson-Thies, who reviewed the bookstore’s phone bills for several months, along with a list of phone numbers and extensions. “We found a lot of charges for line, extensions, and services that we weren’t using and could eliminate,” said Coonerty Protti.
Carlson-Thies was also able to explain the bookstore’s phone bill in layman’s terms, negotiated with vendors on the store’s behalf, and identified service areas that were lacking. “For instance, we found out that the company we used for maintenance was selling a lot of things to us that we didn’t need,” said Coonerty Protti.
Preference Communications’ commission for the telecom audit is 50 percent of a business’ savings over one year, and 50 percent of all refunds recovered for fraud or errors. If a business contracts to use one of Preference’s recommended vendors, the portion of the commission covering those savings is paid by the vendor, which can lower the cost of the overall audit considerably. In the case of Bookshop Santa Cruz, the first years’ savings were over $5,000, but the audit invoice was $1,300.
Coonerty Protti considers the money well spent. “We would have never been able to figure out how to find the inefficiencies in our bills without [Carlson-Thies],” she said. The bookstore also saved by not spending the money for a new $1,000 T1 line, something that its phone company incorrectly advised them to install.
Armed with more information about her business’ needs, as well as about alternate phone companies and their prices, Bookshop Santa Cruz decided to switch carriers. “We also really like the new phone company she set us up with,” said Coonerty Protti. “So, we removed lines/extensions, changed phone companies and plans to better reflect how we used the phones, found some phone lines/services that are useful that we weren’t using, and mapped our store’s phone system for the first time among other things.”
Coonerty Protti is happy with the results. “I would highly recommend [a telecom audit] to anyone unless you are a phone expert yourself,” she said. “These are savings you never would find on your own. Our system is now a lot more manageable and efficient. The only caveat is that we are big store with lots of extensions/lines/numbers so the savings might be much smaller for smaller stores. But any savings is worth it, right?”