Great Business Ideas: Shop Carefully for Long-Distance Service

Great Ideas for your Small Business:

Shop Carefully for Long-Distance Service

Every day, entrepreneurs are bombarded with offers by long-distance companies. Deregulation has created absolute chaos and confusion in the marketplace. But you can sort it out if you know the right questions to ask.

Gerald Dunne Jr., former chief executive officer of Group Long Distance Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, put together this list of questions to ask. Before you make comparisons, get the answers from your current carrier.

  1. Does your company bill in six-second increments, or will I be charged for a full minute no matter how brief the call?
  2. Will I be billed at the same rate for calls made during the day, evening, or night? How will interstate, intrastate, and international calls be billed?
  3. Do you bill me directly, or will I have to resolve any billing disputes through my local phone service provider?
  4. What other services do you provide? Conference calling? Calling cards? Debit cards? Internet access service?
  5. Does your company own its own switches, or will my calls be subjected to multiple rerouting?
  6. Who is your underlying carrier? Is it AT&T or a smaller, less- known carrier?
  7. How long has your company been in business?
  8. Are you privately or publicly owned?
  9. In how many states are you licensed to operate? Licensing by the public service commission in all fifty states indicates a strong, established company.
  10. Are you a member of the Telecommunications Resellers Association? Membership in this trade group is important to reputable companies.

After getting answers to these questions, you should be better able to make an informed decision. Periodically check your bills to make sure you are being served by the company of your choice. “Slamming”—illegally switching customers—is a nasty and prevalent tactic. You shouldn’t be switched unless you personally sign an authorization form.

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If you receive bills from an unknown company, call your local phone company and demand to be switched back.