Extra-long distance

Long distance suppliers seem to be on every corner these days, promising consumers and businesses everything from clarity and cheaper rates to excellent customer service. So how do you know if you’re getting the best deal?

JoAnn Sears, sales center vice president for small- and medium-sized businesses at AT&T, says there are more factors to consider than rate per minute.

“Customers are looking for stability and maximizing productivity,” says Sears. “Purchasing long distance is not any different than purchasing any other type of technology.”

But don’t wait until the last minute to make a decision.

“Plan ahead and do some research,” Sears says.

She advises decision-makers to go online to see what a variety of long distance providers are offering.

“But read the fine print and make sure you are comparing apples to apples,” Sears says.

She cautions long distance shoppers to consider the financial stability of the long distance company.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What will I do if this company goes bankrupt?’” says Sears.

Plus, says Sears a company with a tight cash flow may not have money for research, development and improving or upgrading services.

When looking at that all-important rate per minute, Ray Wendell, voice and LD product manager for Qwest, says to make sure you’re including all charges when calculating rates.

“You might be surprised when the other charges are factored in, like minimums, what the rate per minute is,” says Wendell.

Like Sears, Wendell encourages business customers to do their homework.

“It’s a pretty fluid market right now, so it’s worth the effort,” he says. “And don’t forget to ask your current account rep if you qualify for any new programs.”

Also look into bundling services, which can save you money.

“Companies that have data needs may get a better rate if they buy multiple services,” says Wendell, and some companies offer discounts depending on your average total bill. How to reach: AT&T, (800) 222-0400 ; Qwest, (614) 798-6000

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