The concept of mobile rate plan optimizations has been around for many years. The practice evolved during the early days of buying pools of mobile minutes; You would analyze your current pool of minutes, then add or subtract minutes from the pool, changing rate plans around to “optimize” that pool and keep spend as low as possible. Large buffers were utilized to avoid overages—they were extremely costly at the time. In other words, it was much cheaper to buy more minutes than you really needed as a hedge against any dreaded overage charges. When texting became popular, it created another opportunity for massive waste and more optimization opportunities.
Naturally, an entire industry popped up around this optimization practice; hundreds of one-man shops would perform these mobile audits “for free,” asking only for a percentage of any savings they were able to identify. Back in the day that could be a big chunk of change; it was routine for an audit to produce 30-40% savings off their carrier bill, thus netting the auditor a nice commission.
There are still quite a few of those auditors out there promising cost savings in exchange for a percentage of that savings. However, as technology has evolved and as the information available to the customer by the carriers has become more plentiful, the concept of using the infrequent audit to manage your mobile costs has become antiquated.
Shift gears to a more modern, efficient approach to optimizing mobile rate plans and managing data pools. At vCom, we divide this approach into two categories: Pre-Bill Optimization and Post-Bill Optimization.
Pre-Bill optimizations is an area where modern technology offers tremendous saving opportunities. Only relying on carrier billing data for true visibility into your mobile spend represents a failure of an organization’s ability to optimize and eliminate as much waste as possible.
With our proprietary vManager platform, clients can access and utilize unbilled usage data to impact change during the current bill cycle. vManager pulls usage data from the major carriers daily and alerts the vCom operations team to potential problems. These include data pools at risk of overages or individual lines traveling internationally without the most efficient plan. vManager creates orders that generate automated changes to plans that can be back-dated to the beginning of the bill cycle. This shields the customer from overages and potential bill shock.
vManager also pulls down inventory information every day to identify potential security risks associated with unapproved equipment swaps and orders. We have found multiple examples of fraudulent activity through this inventory reconciliation process. In one example, the main point of contact for one of our customers was ordering equipment through their employer and selling it for their own personal gain vs. activating it for a corporate user. We identified the activity quickly when inventory variances popped up.
Optimizing your mobile spend post-bill begins with ensuring that your billing statement is a true reflection of your inventory.
An open secret in the communications world is that carriers are somewhat challenged when it comes to sending accurate bills. Multiple studies have shown that up to 80% of carrier bills contain some level of inaccuracy. Those same studies show that these inaccuracies favor the carrier by a large margin. Any organization utilizing carrier portals exclusively to manage their environment is trusting that the carrier inventory is accurate. See the potential risk here?
To mitigate this risk, one Post-Bill activity essential to controlling costs is inventory reconciliation. For vCom clients, this automated step occurs when a bill is loaded into vManager. In other words, vCom maintains the customer’s inventory separate from the carrier portals in vManager. Maintaining this trusted data source allows for a robust reconciliation to occur monthly when the carrier bill arrives. It is a rare occurrence when we don’t find any discrepancies (variances). In fact, in one recent quarter alone, vCom identified 17,908 mobile variances, impacting 126 mobile customers! Researching and resolving these variances ensures a clean inventory every month and an accurate bill.
Similar to one-time audit activities of the past, Post-Bill Optimizations are enhanced by added features and efficiencies that only automation can provide. For instance, the practice of identifying the best configuration of rate plans to ensure the lowest possible bill based on current usage is still important and must be performed regularly to maintain efficiency. But vCom has developed automation that works behind the scenes to identify that optimal configuration, utilizing all plans available to the customer. This might include a blend of pooled and unlimited plans. All is designed to identify the lowest possible carrier bill for that customer.
Finally, vManager identifies Post-Bill opportunities for savings by highlighting zero usage lines, unused features, transfer of liability lines, etc. Without accurate visibility into inventory, these categories can get out of hand. For example, how many lines belonging to ex-employees are you still be billed for? These types of scenarios represent pure profit for the carriers, offering little incentive for them to provide the visibility you need to ensure costs are controlled everywhere.
To recap, a complete Mobile Optimization Solution should provide:
- Pre-Bill Services that take advantage of:
- Daily usage data to optimize data pools pre-bill
- Daily usage data to identify international challenges in advance
- Inventory reconciliation to quickly to mitigate security risks
- Post-Bill Services that:
- Optimize rate plan configurations
- Reconcile Inventory
- Identify potential unwanted lines or features
Whether you utilize vManager or another system, it’s essential to modernize your approach to optimizing mobile carrier bills. Today, relying on post-bill activities is not enough. As more impactful pre-bill data is made available, it’s in your best interest to find a way to utilize that information. Introducing automation to reduce costs and free time for your IT and finance teams will add volumes of shareholder value to your organization and allow you to stay ahead of your competition.