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Don’t let the telecom merger and acquisition trend upend your service. Prepare for changes and plan to save.

Operations

It’s Your Call: Address Billing and Service Issues During Telecom Mergers

  • Kelly Smith
  • 6/12/2017

From Spectrum acquiring BrightHouse to Frontier buying Verizon’s residential market, hardly a month goes by where you don’t hear of a telecom merger. Even small, local providers are at risk of selling to or getting bought out by a larger company, which can leave business consumers at the mercy of the telecom giants.

As two entities become one, there are often drastic changes that affect the layout of a company and how it serves clients, which can result in a wave of change and pain for end users.

If your provider merges or is acquired, here are some of the top issues to watch out for:

Losing your account representative

Acquisitions and mergers typically result in internal staffing shifts or consolidation, and the representatives who handle corporate accounts can be replaced or transitioned to new roles. For example:

  • A merged provider raised the monthly spend threshold to $1,500, so that businesses spending less than this amount lost their dedicated representative. That left hundreds of smaller businesses with no direct contact to work with or turn to.
  • In another merger, the parent company laid off employees of the company it acquired. As a result, many clients had to begin working with a new representative who had no knowledge of their background. In some instances, this left corporate accounts unassigned, with no one to contact directly.

Billing platforms that don’t talk to each other

The telecom industry doesn’t use a standardized naming convention to label services. A plain old telephone line may be called a business line, flat line, measured line, 1FB, or a one-party line, depending on the provider. Similar coding and label issues arise in other ways. A “special promotion” may no longer be compatible with a “discount.”

When two telecom providers integrate, they each bring their own billing platform and try to reconcile them into one system. Errors can arise when these divergent billing systems integrate and mislabel a service. Such technical glitches can result in overbilling, and representatives strained by an increased workload are less likely to review accounts for billing errors.

A sudden change in services and rates

During the initial merger phase, the parent company occasionally grandfathers in old rates and services. However, that does not guarantee that those rates and services will be provided or honored in the future if they don’t fit into the new profit model or service mix of the parent company.

Sometimes a provider will limit certain features unless you upgrade to the newest rate plans. This leaves consumers to face the choice of paying more or missing out on a service. In addition, if a particular line of service is not viewed as profitable, it may be phased out altogether, leaving consumers searching for new solutions.

One CLA client had teleconferencing services through a provider that was subsequently acquired. As our client came off of contract, rates skyrocketed. The parent company refused to offer renewal rates for the service, because the newly merged company was phasing out the service.

Shifts in service quality

Your company depends on the reliability of telecom services. But when mergers occur, network maintenance may be affected. There may be geographic areas that do not garner attention and consumers in those areas may experience a loss in quality of service. Providers will spend more time and resources improving networks in locations they deem most profitable, leaving other areas with poorer service quality.

What to do if your telecom provider is acquired or merges

Be proactive during a telecom changeover. Here are four steps you can take to help cushion your business.

  1. Call your rep ― There’s a chance your rep will be in the dark on the details or will get unexpectedly pulled from your account. But a solid working relationship may help prioritize your name when billing and service adjustments are on the horizon.
  2. Get familiar with your bill ― Then watch the fine points for cost adjustments. Sometimes overpayments come incrementally ― but won’t be alarming enough to question. Familiarity with the details can help you recognize those smaller financial adjustments before they snowball.
  3. Negotiate ― Has your quality of service shifted since the acquisition? Have you been a long-standing customer? These types of pain points may give you negotiation leverage, depending upon the provider.
  4. Call in a telecom professional ― It can be difficult to continually monitor these issues and it can distract you growing your business. CLA has guided hundreds of clients through merger transitions to help them find savings.

We can perform a complimentary preliminary assessment with one month of your telecom invoices. We’ll either forecast your savings and refunds, give you a clean bill of health, or direct you to a resource that can help.