There are four major criteria a business must consider when selecting telecommunications services. These are quality, service, reliability, and price. Questions to ask are:
- Will changing long distance carriers disrupt my service?
- How long does it take to change carriers?
- How do I change my local or long distance carrier?
- What kinds of guarantees do you offer?
- What kinds of incentives do you offer?
- In what ways can your program for small business be tailored to my needs?
- Why should I choose your company?
- Can you cut my telecommunications costs? How?
In addition, businesses may ask for the following:
- An appointment to discuss specific requirements;
- Reimbursement of local telephone company charges for changing long distance carriers (called "PIC fees," usually $5.00 per telephone line);
- A list of the carrier's recurring "service" or "management" fees and installation charges (a standard "switched" service program should have no service or installation fees);
- Specifics on any minimum billing requirements (there is often a monthly "minimum usage requirement" associated with long distance programs. If a business does not meet this dollar amount, it may be charged the difference. Some carriers require businesses to commit to an annual amount of spending and will charge severe penalties if these minimums are not met);
- A written statement of penalties for breaking a "Term Agreement" or changing carriers (one-, two-, and three-year agreements can be signed in exchange for significant price discounts. Otherwise, there should be no charge or penalty for changing long distance carriers);
- A local account representative who can make on-site visits;
- A 24-hour; toll-free number for all service issues;
- Information about a carrier's disaster-recovery and rerouting capabilities;
- Information about a carrier's fraud-protection policies.
Some telecom providers to contact include:
AT&T (800) 222-0400
MCI (800) 888-0800
Sprint (800) 877-2000
Tele-Trend Communications (800) 848-1400
World Com (800) 539-2000