It has been estimated that over 90% of corporate telecom bills contain errors. Even with this tremendous amount of inaccurate telecom invoicing being processed each and every month, the majority of companies do not have systems in place for managing telecom errors as they occur. If they do, it is not uncommon to get caught up in “red tape" and bureaucracy trying to correct and resolve the errors with vendors and/or carriers.
Unfortunately, telecom billing errors rarely go away on their own. To combat them effectively, you should implement a step-by-step action plan for correcting and resolving errors at the time they occur. Doing so is the best defense against unnecessary telecom spending.
Telecom billing errors can be intermittent or recurring, usually taking the form of overbilling. The majority are uncovered after a complete and thorough telecom audit of voice and data services. Minimally, a routine check of the summary section of bills will reveal errors that could add up to huge amounts of unnecessary costs over a long period of time.
Correcting Telecom Billing Errors
Billing errors usually occur in three different ways:
1) When a user is charged for something other than what is or what was originally ordered;
2) When a charge is inadvertently omitted by a supplier; and
3) When charges for provided items are based on incorrect rates or calculations.
In order to maintain accurate billing records with your carrier, always strive to correct all discrepancies found - including underbilled items - as soon as you find them. Failure to correct all billing errors immediately makes it more difficult to make changes or report trouble later since these items may not appear on your accounts’ customer service records at a later date.
Telecom billing errors can be intermittent or recurring. For non-recurring errors, you will need to submit all overbilling claims with specific items that are identified and documented. For recurring items, document each discrepancy and submit claims for complete correction of each account. All but minor claims should be submitted in writing.
A 6 Step Process For Submitting Claims
1. Call the carrier or vendor to verify a contact person. Always verify a specific contact person by name to send error reports. You should get a fax number or e-mail address of the person who will ultimately have the ability to resolve your problem. At the top of your cover letter, simply include: ATTN: [the contact name]
2. Compose a cover letter that identifies the essence of the claim. The cover letter is the document that will list all of the specific billing errors that need correcting. Unless the claims are interrelated, it is a good idea to include one billing account per cover letter. This will avoid confusion and allow the carrier contact person to focus on one account only.
3. Attach an itemized detail sheet. The detail sheet should include such things as: the billed account name, phone number(s), date, item, rates, number of months error has occurred, monthly charges, the adjustments due, etc. Be as specific and detailed as possible when documenting the errors and any adjustments you feel are due.
4. Follow up to verify receipt of claim. You will need to follow up soon after submitting your claim to not only make sure the claim was received, but also that it was received by the correct person able to resolve the situation. Keep in mind that some carriers are notorious for letting problems be shuffled around until the customer either forgets or simply gives up. Staying on top of the contact person will ensure that your claim gets processed and resolved.
5. Follow up again and push for resolution. By now you have established the fact that you mean business and you expect your claim to be resolved and refunds or adjustments be made. Be sure to get an order number and the effective date of the billing correction during this step.
6. Verify errors have been corrected and refunds received. Errors that go uncorrected will continue to appear on telecom bills in subsequent months. The final step is the most crucial: be sure that the errors are removed and refunds are in your company bank account! Don't be surprised if a similar or exact type of error suddenly appears again in 3-6 months.
No matter what the technology, telecom vendors and service providers will continue to makes mistakes. With the proper systems in place to identify errors, and the action steps taken to resolve them, you will be well on your way to keeping your corporate telecom expenses in check.
Karen Thatcher is president of TelCon Associates Inc. , a 34 year old telecom consulting and bill management firm. For more information on how TelCon Associates can help reduce your corporate telecom spending, visit www.telconassociates.com