Once a Trusted Source, No Longer!! Vendor Contracts Part 4

I am going to start out by saying the Carrier industry and specifically the Cellular Carrier industry, is in a sad situation. Who can  you trust? I share one of my stories below about my experience with BIG Blue.

I was hired by a customer to review their BIG Blue cellular carrier billing for ways to reduce cost. 

Through this process, I discovered some feature plans that were and were not getting discounts. As any of you would do, you go back to the carrier rep and let them know that these features should be getting discounts. We will call this start date as Month #1. This does sound easy enough, right?!

Now let’s fast forward to Month #4 after the carrier went dark when reaching out to them, I get the following response from the carrier rep. (Not sure why something as simple as finding out the answer to my request would take 4 months.)

  • I did some digging, and it looks as if your Mobility terms expired back in 20##, which is why you no longer have the discount associated with this  feature. However, the customer did sign an amendment in 20##(+1 yrs) but it was only for your Mobile Device licenses. Usually, when a contract expires, the only discounts I have seen that stay attached are the monthly discount percentage off the rate plans.

I am sure you have already caught this, but how can an amendment tied to an expired agreement be valid, and how can the expired agreement have any other rates other than non-discounted standard rates if the agreement is expired?

I was flabbergasted to hear such a response!

It got me thinking that maybe there were some other agreements that the rep might be talking about that I was not familiar with? It never hurts to wait to push hard until it is known that I do have all the facts. Of course, if the agreement is the one talked about above, we all know if the agreement were expired, rates normally would return to Pay Per Use (PPU) rates. So, I asked the following:

  • Can you give me a copy of this agreement that you stated has expired? 
  • Can you let me know what agreement is in place today?
  • Most agreements have an auto renew statement, are you stating this one doesn’t?Can you please provide me a copy of the amendment?

I do have a pet peeve. I really get perturbed when I send a request and do not hear anything. I do not know if my email went to junk mail or when I should time activate to follow up they do not or if they are just ignoring hoping I will not remember. It is like you are face-to-face with another person and you are looking eye-to-eye and you ask them a question and they walk away as if they didn’t hear the question. Well after a week of no response to my request, I reached out again, but this time, I added the customer contact to the email thread. It’s pretty silly that I have to do this in the first place.

I get a response that provided me with the latest agreement and amendment with one additional key comment. The agreement is a month-to-month agreement. First it was expired and now it is month-to-month. Someone must not understand how to read agreements.

After reviewing the agreement and amendment the same day I get them, I see the following statement in the agreement. “At the end of the initial term, the Agreement will automatically renew for successive one-year terms unless either party gives the other party notice of its intent not to renew at least 90 days prior to the end of the then current term.” I have seen agreements renew for 5 plus years using this same language from BIG Blue. This sure is not a month-to-month and it is not expired because neither party has sent in a notice  not to renew. 

In attempt to not make anyone feel foolish, I cut and pasted the contract wording in an email back to the BIG Blue rep to inform of the above statement and that the agreement is active, meaning all features and discounts should be active. I now waited to see when they would get back with me. Just like before, they went dark. I have to ask, does anyone else have their carrier go dark on them?

My thought was, this is too simple, why is BIG Blue making this so difficult? 

After another week, I again had to reach out to the rep and copy my customer contact. Makes me think “professionalism” and “respect” for individuals time is a thing of the past. I hate to think this way, but it makes me think it is a part of an internal policy of BIG Blue to make people give up. 

Yeah! I heard back within a day. Their response is again that the agreement was expired, and that the amendment is only for an extension of the amended terms. Now how can there be an amendment if the referencing agreement the amendment refers is expired? A thought comes to mind that I am living out of the comic strip Dilbert.

I then start to think that this isn’t working going back and forth with emails, so I suggested to get on a Webex conference call so I can point out the terms as we look at them together. Since some just can’t relate well to emails longer than a few lines, why not take it to the next level of needed review together? I finally got a response 20 days later that we can set up a call to discuss. 20 days! What do these actions say about customer service and what they think about the customers revenues? 

As I get on the conference call with BIG Blue and there is a group of 4 BIG Blue people, I am thinking to myself that this is not rocket science! I ask a few questions because of the above responses to see how new to the industry these people are. Boy, was I wrong! Some of the team had 15 years, others closer to 30 years in the industry. My thought goes to, are these people playing a game for me to give up or do they really not understand contracts or my request are not important to them?

This actually brought me back to a time years ago where the carrier rep was not understanding a simple question I asked, “What does 1+0 equal?” The carrier rep said they did not know. After more time, I got the customer back 10’s of thousands of dollars. Sometimes people’s minds seem to lock up. I am not sure why but it happens. 

Since I could not convince them, it was agreed on the call to forward this information on to BIG Blue’s legal team. This surprised me that BIG Blue would not have gone there first. The rep sure did waste a lot of individuals time and energy by not doing this first.

And they have been with BIG Blue how long, again?

In years past, I would have had BIG Blue go get the needed proof from the bills, but if it’s possible that it will follow the above process, it would make more sense for me to provide all the needed information. Within less than 20 minutes I had billing information that showed the customer was getting feature discounts on some devices and not on others.

Guess what? The story is not over yet! We are still waiting for the BIG Blue rep and/legal to get back with us. We are closer to 6 months out. Surely there is a law against this type of treatment of customers.

Some great takeaways are:

  • Audits can find opportunities for reducing cost. I am seeing savings in 98% of the companies billing reviewed.
  • To perform and get all that is possible from an Audit, someone with a good background outside of the carrier should review the agreement.
  • The process of working with the carrier has to be managed by the customer or customer representative to get what has been contracted for from the carrier.  This time activation of follow-up is key to any movement.

Please know BIG Blue would say this only happens in a small percentage of the cases. I would say, I have seen it happen about 90% of the time from small customers to large customers of BIG Blue. Which makes me rate their Customer Service at a 1 on a scale of 1-5. We want to know who your carrier is and how you would rate them by filling out this quick 1 minute survey where you can stay strictly anonymous. Your name and email are NOT required to fill it out. We are simply collecting a consensus of how Enterprise Customers and Consumers feel about their cellular carriers.

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