So you found an error on your telephone bill and are getting ready to contact the carrier for resolution: Now what?
Common sense tells you that once notified, the telephone company should correct the error immediately and refund all overpayments.
Unfortunately, this is an area where common sense rarely prevails.
There are a number of roadblocks to correcting the error and pitfalls of which to be wary of while negotiating the refund to which you are entitled. This article introduces you to common road blocks and pitfalls encountered when managing telecommunications invoice disputes and some tools to overcome them.
In the first part of this blog series we discussed:
In this final article in the series, Part 2, we'll discuss some of the pitfalls to avoid to accelerate your time to savings.
Burying credits in a new contract
There are times when a billing error will be discovered and confirmed during or just prior to contract negotiations. If the amount of credit due is significant a vendor may offer to add ‘bonus’ money to the new contract if the customer will not pursue the billing error and close the claim. This strategy has many benefits to the sales team and vendor but none to the customer.
The sales team will not take the ‘credit ding’ previously mentioned nor have to repay commission and the vendor/sales office will not need to adjust reported results.
The customer may receive the dollar amount credit due but will generally not receive any better rates for agreeing to the compromise. In fact, since the contract product house is now ‘paying’ for the billing error, it is likely the new contract rates will be slightly higher since the total revenue of the new contract will now be reduced due to the signing bonus/credit. There is also the possibility the credit may be applied at several different points in the new contract. In this case, the customer runs the risk of not receiving all credit due if another contract is renegotiated before all credit has been applied. For example, the credit may be applied sporadically over the life of the new contract with the final credits not being applied until the tail end of the contract term. If another new contract is renegotiated prior to issuance of the last credit, the credit is forfeited to the vendor and full credit for the original billing error is not received by the customer.
There are instances where a vendor account team has been assigned to a customer for a long period time and customer and vendor are comfortable with each other from years of working together. This can create delicate situations when an error is discovered and a large credit is at stake. A customer may feel obligated to help or ‘feel sorry’ for the sales rep if the perception is created that issuing the full credit could be detrimental to the sales rep in some way. The customer must always do what is in the best interest of their company and if ‘damaging’ the relationship is necessary it usually means there was a prior undetected or undisclosed problem with the relationship to begin. No vendor or representative should ever ask or suggest a customer receive anything less than that to which they are fully entitled under the contract or the law.
A typical answer in regards to a billing issue or question is “Let me investigate and see what can be done”.
Unless it is their first day on the job, a vendor representative should not have to investigate their internal process to correct errors and legal requirements for issuing credit. They should be able to explain the process and expected time frame immediately upon submission of your question or claim.
In part 3, we'll discuss some tools to help recover claims and our conclusion.