The Firm helps Universal Unilink members save o money on telecommunications

 

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Interview Transcript

Universal Unilink

Welcome to our Supplier Spotlight interview. I have Charles Franklin of The Firm on the line. Let’s get started. Charles, tell us, in a sentence, what benefit do you bring to Universal Unilink members?

Charles Franklin

Sure. Thanks for the opportunity, Marty, and good morning. So in a sense, what we do at The Firm is add revenue to the bottom line of your members simply by showing them how they can save money on their telecom-related expenses. That’s it in a quick sentence, in a nutshell, is we’ll help them save money and add that money to their bottom line so they can repurpose those resources to other things in their business, buying supplies or hiring more resources or whatever the case may be, we’re going to give them that money back and allow them to be more efficient with the money that they’ve earned.

Universal Unilink

Okay. That’s the intriguing part. How do you do that at The Firm?

Charles Franklin

Yeah, so what we do is we audit the telecom bills. It’s a simple, easy, what I call, painless process, where we’ll actually go in and take a look at the telecom expenses that your members are currently accruing and whether it’s landline, internet, or cellphone. I know some businesses will have cellphones and not landlines, pretty much everybody has internet, whatever those telecom expenses are, we’ll go in and we’ll do a deep dive audit on those expenses and show your members how they can save money from what they’re spending on a monthly basis currently.

Universal Unilink

Okay. You do more than just cellphones or landlines, you’re actually doing the cellphone audits, landlines, and internet. Does it matter where members are located?

Charles Franklin

No, it doesn’t matter where they’re located. Our agreements are nationwide, so if they’re in Rhode Island or if they’re in Southern California or Boca Raton, South Florida, all the way to Seattle, it doesn’t matter. We cover the country because of our agreements. Let me go back, I’m sorry, I should’ve explained it on the last question, but we do the audits in a few different ways. Firstly, the first thing we do when we do an audit is we look at the customer’s bills for any overcharging. Carriers, landline, cellphone carriers are notorious for overcharging customers, right? The devil is in the details, if you will. We’ll go in and we’ll take a deep dive in and see is this a feature that your member truly needs or, if it is, can it be maybe scaled back a little bit? Maybe it doesn’t need to be as robust.

Charles Franklin

We’ll go in and we’ll take a look at that. The other thing that we do is we look at competitive pricing. We’re agnostic here, so if your customer, if your member, currently has Provider A, we’re not tied to Provider A. We’ll actually look at what Provider B is offering, and if it’s a better pricing or let’s say maybe it’s the same pricing but it’s a better offering, faster speed, more connectivity, more bandwidth, whatever the case may be, we’ll actually recommend and say, “Hey, it’s the same money, but you’re going to get more bang for your buck over here.” Obviously, we’re looking first and foremost for savings and, again, because we’re agnostic, we’re going to bring in the best solution for your member to help them get what they need and not overpay.

Charles Franklin

The second thing we do is we look into introducing new technologies. Technology is rapidly changing, always has, always will. What worked in the early 2000s, from a technology or maybe even just a service speed or bandwidth, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s best for the customer, for your client, here in 2019, so we’ll look at that.

Charles Franklin

And then the third way that we conduct the audit, and it ties into your last question, Marty, what we do is we go in and we will actually use our partnerships, our unique partnerships, that we have with providers all across the country, so the question of does it matter where they are? No, it doesn’t matter because we’ve got agreements with all your major and even some of your rural, more localized providers to go in and be able to offer unique pricing that we’ve negotiated with these guys so that we can bring the best pricing forward to your members. And again, because it’s nationwide, it doesn’t matter where they are. We’re going to be able to help them pretty much from sea to shining sea, if you will.

Universal Unilink

That’s great. The new technology, that also covers hardware? I don’t know if you deal in servers, but the actual handsets on the desk and the cellphones in their pockets?

Charles Franklin

Absolutely. And, especially, there’s a couple of trends happening right now in both the landline and the cellphone industry, so I’ll take them in silos. With the landline, currently there’s a big shift to what’s called VoIP services and SD LAN services, and I won’t go too in depth on those, but the key thing to know here is that these new offerings, these new technologies, are revolutionizing the way that businesses connect to their customers from their offices. And what it’s mainly doing is it’s driving competition into the market, which is then, in turn, driving down prices.

Charles Franklin

As far as the technology and the handsets themselves, yes, you will need, that end user customer, will need new handsets, desktop handsets, and phones at the offices. And in some cases, they actually won’t even need a handset phone because a lot of these new technologies, these VoIP services, you can actually just do a call forward to a cellphone. Again, that’s another way where we can come in and leverage those technologies and really show your members how they can save money because now, if you’re being charged, let’s say, as an example, let’s say they’re being charged for that landline phone and they’ve got 10 of them and they’re being charged 10 bucks or whatever, it’s $100 on their bill.

Charles Franklin

Well, we’re going to get rid of that and say, let’s go to a VoIP service. We can have the phone number forwarded to a cellphone for the employee and now you can reduce that cost. That’s some of the ways that the technology is revolutionizing what’s going on on the landline side. And then on the cellphone silo, what we’re seeing is the introduction of 5G and it’s going to really, really, really take off here in 2020 as more cellphone carriers introduce 5G technology. What you’re going to see is a shift in a new handsets. These handsets are going to be able to … they’re going to be a lot more powerful. You’re going to be able to do a lot more. There are a lot more functionalities and more similar to a laptop, if you will.

Charles Franklin

In addition to that, 5G is going to also offer businesses the ability to run their internet via cell signal, so you won’t have to have a physical line coming into the office. Everything is going to be done through your cellphone connection, which again, is going to make the businesses more mobile, but then it’s also going to allow them to reduce their costs because, again, you have another competitor entering the market and it’s going to force all of these other incumbents to reduce their price to stay competitive.

Charles Franklin

Competition is a good thing and, here at The Firm, we’re staying abreast and on the forefront of what’s going on, these industry shifts and changes, and so we’re going to be offering your clients, as they come to us, we’re going to be talking to them about these solutions, and the great part about it, Marty, is these guys, your clients, they’re not going to have to know about all this stuff, right, that’s our job. They’re going to be able to do their core competencies. They’re going to be able to go out and deliver their match or whatever it is that they’re doing, and we’re going to take care of the telecom stuff for them on the back end. We’re going to be that trusted advisor for them.

Charles Franklin

One more thing, too, before your next question, and this is interesting. Last year, in 2018, Consumer Reports released a study stating that approximately 55% of all companies, all business owners, are overpaying for their telecom services right now. Over half are paying more than they should be paying. And that’s why we have our business, that’s why we have the business itself, and that’s why we’re successful out here is because we go in and we’ll show your clients how they can recapture that money.

Universal Unilink

Oh, that’s great. More than half of the people that are listening to this interview may be paying too much. You did mention the new technologies, which is great. In addition to saving money, they are also adding extra capabilities and being able to do business in ways that they hadn’t thought of before. And you touched on also you are able to help members with their internet service plans. How does that work?

Charles Franklin

Yeah, so same process, similar to the landline and the cellular, right? We’re doing the audit. We’re going in and we’re making sure that, for one, that they’re not overpaying, the key phrase here, but the second thing is, a lot of times, internet, ISP providers is what we call them, ISP providers or internet service providers will do what’s called turn-ups. They might actually offer faster speed or more bandwidth in a particular area, and a lot of times, they don’t broadcast that, they don’t make it known. You might have a client who’s currently receiving a 30 meg speed capability. Well, the ISP provider might’ve turned up 100 meg capability, and a lot of times, the business owners don’t know. They don’t know that they could be getting three times more the speed and bandwidth, a lot of times, for the same price or for a cheaper price.

Charles Franklin

That’s where we come in, and we get monthly updates from the major carriers and the rural carriers. They send us a monthly update and just say, “Hey, this is what’s going on in this particular area of the country.” Kansas City, let’s say, Kansas City, a few months ago, they had a big turn-up of internet capability, so that’s something we can work with your members if they’ll engage with us and we have that open line of communication. Those members that may be in a certain part of the country, we can notify them and say, “Hey, look, this is what’s going on. We’re going to take a look at this for you to see if you qualify for, if it’s something that we can offer you. There’s going to be no cost to you or it’s going to save you money or it’s just going to get you better speed for the money that you’re currently paying. Let us take care of that for you.” That’s one of the ways that we help with the internet capabilities when dealing with the ISP providers.

Universal Unilink

Oh, that’s great. All of this, you can discover for members with the audit. What are the steps with the audit? If a member was interested in doing an audit with The Firm, what would they do?

Charles Franklin

Yeah, great question. I’m going to take it landline/internet service provider and then cellphone. I’m going to break them up into different silos. Well, let me say this, we make it easy. Let me go back to that same Consumer Reports that I quoted a few minutes ago. Again, back in 2018, so just last year, Consumer Reports released a report stating that 65% of businesses haven’t done an audit on their telecom services or their billing because they think it’s too time-consuming or they don’t have the time to do it. What we’ve done is we’ve recognized that 65% of people understand that they need to do it, 55% are overpaying, there’s a need there.

Charles Franklin

What we’ve done is we’ve made it easy and that’s the simplest way to put it. It’s like the Staples button thing and that was easy kind of deal. It’s a very simple process. Again, it’s painless. On the landline side, the first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to check for the contract period. A lot of times, when businesses sign up for service, they’ll sign a contract and what we need to do is identify how much time is left on that contract, because sometimes there’s heavy penalties or fees if they break the contract and sometimes the savings aren’t worth the contract termination fee. The carriers do that on purpose.

Charles Franklin

What we’ll do is, first, is just look at the contract period and get an idea of is this going to be beneficial or should we wait, because we’re not in this to just to make a sale or a deal. We want to truly deliver benefit to your members. And if it doesn’t make dollars it doesn’t make sense, right? If it’s a matter of waiting a few months, we can table it and we’ll circle back up with the member in a few months when that contract expires and then we’ll go to work. But that’s the first thing we do is take a look at the contract period.

Charles Franklin

The second thing we do is the company will need to provide us a full detailed bill of their services, what they’re currently paying. A lot of times, the members will have a shorthand version of the bill, but we will need a full detailed bill, so that way we can really dive into and see what they’re being charged for each individual line for the services for that particular phone number. Again, the devil is in the details.

Charles Franklin

The third part, our third step, is once we do our audit, it usually takes us about a week, sometimes 10 business days. It depends on how much cooperation we get from the carrier. We will come back with our findings and it’ll say, “Hey, here’s a lot of savings for you,” “Here’s some savings for you,” or “Hey, listen, you’re doing great. There really wasn’t any savings there for you.” But what there is potential for the business owner to now gain a trusted advisor in The Firm, where we can actually handle a lot of those issues or details or trouble that they might have with the provider. We’re going to be that trusted advisor now. Again, it’s simple as they can pick up a phone and “Hey, I’ve got trouble with this or trouble with that,” and then we can get the ball rolling for them, again, allowing them to free up their time to go out and do what their core competency is and make money.

Charles Franklin

At the end of the day, there’s always a benefit in reaching out to us. And then the fourth thing is, the fourth step is, if we do find a savings or, again let’s say, just better solution, better service offering, we’re going to take care of initiating that switchover. It’s called a cutover. We’re going to take care of that for the business owner. Again, they’re not going to have to invest their time into doing that, we’re going to do it for them. Okay? And then, on the sell side, pretty much the same process except that we don’t really look at the contract term because, a lot of times, on the cellphone side of business, the carriers will pay your contract off. If there’s a savings switching from Carrier A to Carrier B and there’s a fee or a penalty for breaking the contract, the new provider, Carrier B, will actually take care of those termination fees for you.

Charles Franklin

We don’t really have to look at the contract on the cellphone plans. We’ll just go in and, again, audit it, figure out what’s the best solution, whether it’s staying with the incumbent or whether it’s switching to a new provider. We’ll take care of all that for you. And the great thing is, because these are Unilink members, the service is normally a charge. The audit is not a free service. We actually charge an upfront fee for that. But because they are Unilink members and we have partnered with you guys, we are going to do these audits for free, so that’s a good benefit.

Universal Unilink

That’s fantastic. That was my next question- how much is the audit, but you answered that. That’s an amazing deal. Anything else?

Charles Franklin

Depending on the size of the company, depending on the size of the company, Marty, it can range anywhere from low hundreds to 300 bucks, just depending on how many lines and the services. That’s a a good, again, another benefit to being a Unilink member.

Universal Unilink

If a member was interested in having an audit done and getting the ball rolling, how do they contact you?

Charles Franklin

Yeah, good question. I guess that’s important. Two ways that they can get in touch with us, pick up the phone and call us directly. Our number is (864) 551-4477 or they can visit our site, www.thefirm864.com, and at the bottom of the page there, there’s a section that says, “Learn more, contact us,” and you just click on that hyperlink. It’ll take them to a form, they can enter in their information, business name, address, point of contact information, hit submit, and then that’ll forward over to us. And we have an internal SLA. We try to get back to people within 24 hours. Sometimes, after holidays and things, sometimes it might be an extra day, but we do commit to getting back to your members within that 24 to 48 hour timeframe.

Charles Franklin

And then, from there, we get the ball rolling, go back to the four step process. We’ll talk about the contract, we’ll obtain the bill, and we’ll go through and do our process and we’ll get it going.

Universal Unilink

That’s great. Well, Charles, thank you so much for taking the time for our Supplier Spotlight interview, and we ask members, if you’re interested, give Charles a call and get the ball rolling on your free audit. Thank you very much.

Charles Franklin

Absolutely. Thank you. I absolutely appreciate the time and the opportunity to help your members and, members, pick up the phone, give us a call. Let us see if we can help you.