Ernie Francestine

Thursday, 29 November 2001 18:06

Bundling may save you a bundle

No one likes to face that stack of bills every month. But what if you could cut not only the size of that stack, but the charges, too?

If your company depends on an extensive array of telecommunications services, bundling might be just what you need to save money and cut the monthly glut of bills.

Many telecommunications companies that provide most, if not all, of the services you need will bundle"multiple services, giving you a lower price and fewer bills.

Aside from the cost savings that usually come with bundling, the convenience factor also makes it appealing. With services bundled, you won't have separate bills for local and long distance, calling cards and your 800 number. Fewer bills means fewer hassles when sorting out charges and keeping track of what you're paying.

And with one provider, you'll only have one customer service number.

Bundling discounts come in various shapes and sizes. Purchasing multiple services or products may result in longer warranty periods, discounts on additional purchases or a reduction of current charges.

The most common bundling for businesses may be a local and long distance service package. Packaging local and long distance service with a business telephone system is also a popular option. Broadband services can be included as part of either package.

Bundling can also help small businesses use their resources more efficiently. If you buy most or all of your telecommunications services from one company, it will provide a broad range of support that can save your information technology personnel time and headaches. That can be even more valuable for a company that outsources those services.

A telecommunications purchase should not be done without some amount of research.

Many providers have fallen victim to the down economy. Some have scaled back operations, some have left the Pittsburgh market and others have filed for bankruptcy. And the weeding-out process is probably not over.

So it's important to look for an established company with a long track record of service in the products it sells. Ask for an annual report and review the company's financials. Ask for references, and contact companies using the services you are contemplating,

But your research really should start with the salesperson at your door. Does he or she represent the company in a professional manner? Is he or she knowledgeable? Other company representatives should also be available to answer complex questions that may arise during the sales process.

Finally, go with a provider that won't lock you into a long-term contract. That way, if the package you've bundled turns out to be wrong for your company, you can make a change -- in services or providers -- without financial penalties you can't afford.

Ernie Francestine is director of sales for Penn Telecom, a Cranberry Township-based telecommunications provider.