5 Tips to Avoid Mobile Bill Shock

19th March 2021

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We are an experienced independent business mobile provider who can supply the best network, tariff plans and solutions for you.
 

If you own a business that utilises business mobile contracts, you may have suffered from a condition known as ‘bill shock’. It is caused by discovering unexpected costs on your phone bill and may result in symptoms such as confusion, anger and panic. When initially negotiating a business mobile contract, the costs usually seem straightforward – a monthly charge for a set number of services. However, they can be a minefield for hidden charges and extra costs which can quickly add up. Not only is bill shock inconvenient, it can also be detrimental to your business. Having to foot unplanned expenses with money that wasn’t initially intended for your mobile contracts is never ideal.

Although bill shock is a common issue that many businesses will face at some point, there are simple measures you can take to prevent it. At Elite, we understand the frustration of having to fork out for surprise mobile contract bills without seeing any benefit for extra costs, so we have outlined 5 key steps to prevent you from experiencing bill shock again.

So, let’s find out how you can say goodbye to pesky, unexpected charges on your business mobile bill!

 

1) Decode Your Mobile Bill

Similar to a relationship, when you are noticing more and more problems with your business mobile contract it can be tempting to just break up and move on to pastures new. Although this may seem like less hassle than trying to fix your current contract, it can do more harm than good. Without investigating why your current contract isn’t suitable for your needs, how can you choose one that will be? Simply switching without a clear idea of your requirements and the costs you are inadvertently accruing, could result in you being tied into another contract that still isn’t suitable for you.

It can sometimes feel like you are deciphering hieroglyphics when trying to understand your phone bill if you don’t know your MMS from your SMS or you’ve no idea how to determine which phone numbers class as overseas calls. However, it is worth the time and patience, because decoding your mobile bill will help you to identify the services you are paying for and where all of those sneaky charges are hiding. Once you have outlined which services you are currently paying for, you can start to plan the budget you want to stick to with your mobile contract and the needs this contract has to fulfil. Once you have decided what services you need, you can then look at costing either through a price comparison site or a discussion with a specialist who can outline the best business mobile solutions for your budget. Now you know where your money is actually going and the reasons for unexpected charges, you can also implement realistic changes with how you manage your mobile fleet such as:

  • Data usage – you may consider adding caps to prevent exceeding your data limit or increasing/decreasing your allowance to suit your needs
  • Minutes – you may need to increase your allowance if you are being charged for exceeding your limit
  • Cut down the number of business phones – analyse the type of roles within your company who currently have a business mobile and identify any roles where a business mobile is no longer a necessity

After you have identified what is responsible for the extra charges on your bill, speak to the members of staff who have a business mobile to investigate how they are using it. Some of the extra charges could be down to a lack of understanding or a user error such as:

  • Downloading apps that use a lot of data
  • Video calling using data
  • Not knowing how to turn data roaming off
  • Being unaware of how to check minutes allowance

Having a conversation with your staff could help to identify training opportunities and policy updates which could help them to use their device more carefully and be more wary of incurring extra charges. We’ll explain a bit more about training and policies later on in this guide, so stay tuned.

 

2) Change or switch your contract

This step may seem contradictory considering we told you NOT to switch contracts in step one. However, now that you have identified what you need from your business mobile contract, you can set about changing or finding a new contract that fits your needs. Whether you decide to change or switch your contract depends on what your current service provider can offer you. Before leaving your service provider for another, it is worth taking the list of changes you would like to make on your contract to the provider and exploring what your options are. Providers don’t want to lose your business, so if it is within their power to implement these changes they most likely will. Through spending time working out your bills you are also aware of the charges you are likely to experience with your current provider, which is another advantage of changing rather than switching, as you may have to spend time working out any hidden fees or charges your new provider may add to your bill. If your current provider can change your contract to suit your need, the next question you need to answer is whether this contract is still cost-effective for you.

Example: you have added extra mobile data and international calls onto your existing contract. When you’ve completed some research, you discover that another provider offers a package that includes international calls and unlimited data for less than you are paying for your existing contract. You could use this information to either negotiate a better deal with your current provider (if you want to try and avoid the hassle of switching) or you could switch to the cheaper provider, as long as you are sure that this new contract will meet the needs you identified in your bill analysis.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible for a company to meet any or all of the features you wish to have in your business mobile contract. If this is the case, it is time to start researching other potential providers. There a few ways in which you can find out the information you need about other business mobile contract providers such as:

  • Going direct to the provider – if you have an idea of which company you would like to switch to (maybe a company that has been recommended to you) you could check out any deals, features and contracts that they offer on their website or calling them to explain your needs and asking how they could fulfil them
  • Use a service that has partnerships with major providers who can find a suitable contract for your needs
  • Research different providers and price plans with a comparison site

 

3) Control Data Usage

In days gone by, all that was required of a mobile phone was the ability to make calls, send and receive texts and maybe the odd bit of email communication. However, we are now living in a digital age, which means data usage is vital for networking, communication and conducting business on the go. This need to be accessible has increased further due to the pandemic and the rise of video calls and meetings using apps such as Zoom. With the implementation of 5G and further technological advances, it’s clear to see that data is here to stay and will always be a necessary component in your business mobile contract Although data is fantastic, as it can keep your business connected, usage can add-up quickly and can be expensive if you exceed your limit without realising. If you haven’t implemented data caps or users aren’t aware of roaming charges and apps that use background data, this is likely to be the culprit for a big chunk of money that has resulted in your bill shock. Providers such as EE, offer data caps that switch off your data after you have used up your specified allowance. For example, if you set your data cap at 10GB per month, once the user has maximised this amount of data they will receive a notification letting them know that they have run out and they will not be able to use data until the next month, unless they buy more. This would give you greater control over data usage, as it would prevent incurring a charge by using data outside of your allowance and if more data is required you could outline in your business mobile policy that extra data cannot be purchased without approval from the company.

Another important factor to consider is the type of apps the user has on their business mobile device. Some apps use data in the background, regardless of whether the user has it open or not. If data is switched on, the app will start to use it, which can drain your allowance if you are unaware. Again, you can set out in your business mobile policy a list of acceptable apps that do not use background data, if you have noticed that excess data usage is an issue. It can also prevent users from downloading irrelevant apps, such as social media, onto their business mobile device which could also benefit productivity – dual benefits are always good!

As well as data, there is another marvellous resource that can help you to connect to the internet without scary mobile bills – Wi-fi! Utilising Wi-fi wherever possible and appropriate can help to decrease the amount of data you are using. We’re currently living in a time where everybody is using apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams regularly for meetings and business calls. If users are relying on data to conduct this communication, that is going to rack up a lot of usage. Users should be encouraged to take advantage of wi-fi whenever they can for activities that require a large amount of data. Using Wi-Fi, also comes with its own set of risks, so if users are dealing with sensitive information, it is important that they are aware of circumstances where they should be careful when using Wi-Fi, e.g. avoid completing business over public Wi-Fi.

 

4) Know Your Numbers

Are you able to identify a premium rate or international number? They can be a little tricky to spot sometimes and if you are calling them without realising, this could be responsible for some of the surprise costs on your bill.

What Is a Premium Rate Number?

A premium rate number is a phone number that incurs a fee to access. This fee is charged to your phone bill, even if you have free calls to landlines included in your contract. They cost more than the average phone call or text messages with prices varying from a few pence per minute to a few pounds per minute for a call. Similarly if you are texting a premium number, you will be typically charged a fee and your standard network rate. So, for example if you texted a premium line for information and your standard network charge for a text was 10p, you would be charged the fee (e.g. £2) plus 10p.  Some premium rate lines charge you an initial fee for the call followed by a pay-per-minute fee. Premium rate numbers come under the umbrella of non-geographic numbers. Non-geographic numbers don’t begin with an area code, such as 020 for London and 0151 for Liverpool. Premium rate numbers usually start with the prefixes: 09, 118, 087 or a 5-6 digit mobile voice or text shortcode. They are typically used in circumstances such as phone-in competitions, but some large companies use them in order to have just one phone number for all their customer communications.

On 1st July 2015 Ofcom introduced a scheme known as ‘UK Calling’ which had the aim of making it easier to work out the cost of calling premium rate numbers. This scheme ensured that the charges for these numbers were split into:

  • An access charge: set by the phone provider and is clearly indicated on phone bills when a user takes out a contract – this charge is applied to 084, 087, 09 and 118
  • A service charge: set by the company/organisation you are calling – this charge must be made clear wherever the phone/text service is advertised

If calls are not monitored effectively, calling premium rate numbers can easily cause costs to spiral and you’ll feel like you need to win a phone-in competition to pay off your phone bill! However, if you are worried about international or premium rate numbers causing unnecessary charges, you can utilise call barring to prevent calls from certain numbers being made and received from your phone. You can set up call-barring to stop calls to and from premium rate numbers, international numbers, operators and other call services.

 

What is an International Call?

An international call is a call that is made overseas. Obviously when you are running a business that trades internationally you are going to want access to international phone calls without a huge phone bill. If you are looking to make quite a few international calls a year, it is advisable to speak to your network provider regarding their international call offers and features. Some providers, like EE, may provide add-ons that you can add to your contract to call different areas of the world, such as the EU and America. They may also offer packages that group together certain countries or regions. Utilising packages and features will avoid steep international call rates as they are included in your package, usually with a monthly rate, so as long as you don’t go over any allowances for international minutes/texts you should know exactly how much you will need to pay for your international calls. If international calls are important for your business, it will also be worth considering if you can make some or all of your calls via online communication platforms to save money, such as:

 

5) Keep Policies and Training Up to Date

Now you are aware of how your business mobile contract works and the potential costs you may incur, it’s time to reflect your findings into staff training and business mobile policies. Your policies need to be clear and easy to access. Users of business mobile phones will need to know what is regarded as ‘acceptable business use’. There are a variety of rules you could enforce in order to have greater control over your business mobile bill such as:

  • No personal calls
  • Avoiding international calls unless permission is granted – this will give you a chance to look at other options that won’t incur a charge or allow you to be prepared for an extra charge on your next bill
  • A list of acceptable mobile applications that can be used on the company phone to ensure users do not download anything that will use unnecessary data, hinder productivity or contain inappropriate content

Training can include a variety of topics to ensure that staff avoid unnecessary fees. The main aim of your training regarding business mobiles should include:

  • Users understanding how the data on their phone works, e.g. how much the data allowance is, how to turn off roaming etc
  • Who to notify if users need to go over their allowance
  • Use of applications, pictures and emojis – if they are going to incur a charge they should not be used
  • The difference between SMS (short message service – normal text messages) and MMS (multimedia messaging service – includes media such as pictures) – MMS will usually cost more than SMS

The more your users know about managing their business mobile device the better, as this could ensure that they are more conscientious and avoid mistakes that result in a panic when you open your phone bill.

 

Let us provide the cure

We understand that trying to find the perfect business mobile solutions to fit both your company’s needs and budget can be a daunting task. So, let us take care of it for you! We are an experienced independent business mobile provider who can supply the best network, tariff plans and solutions for you. We have secured respected relationships with some of the UKs best mobile providers including EE, Vodafone and O2. Our connections with network providers coupled with our unrivalled, expert knowledge can provide you with a one stop solution for your mobile communication needs. With our help, you won’t have to worry about experiencing the dreaded bill shock the next time your business mobile bill is pushed through your letterbox.

 

Elite Group is one of the UK’s leading unified communication providers, supplying reliable and professional IT and telecoms services to organisations seeking Business Mobile Packages, Mobile Networks and Device Management & Security .

For more information on how Elite Group can power your unified communication solutions,  call us or request a quote today.