By Les Spielman and Dave Berkus
So you did your audit on your phone system and you just negotiated great rates with your long distance vendors. You are not happy about the return on your telecommunications investment, but you have to maintain telephone service in order to rent rooms. Then why are you reading this article? What did you miss?
Help! You have a very large leak of revenue that is pouring through your phone system and you don’t even know it. The worst part is that no matter how good your call accounting system is, or how well you read your telephone bill, you won’t find it!
SO TELL ME, HOW AM I LOSING ALL OF THIS REVENUE?
Ahh, now the fun begins.
Most of the nation’s Local Exchange Carriers (LECs), and your local telco company have all decided that they are now in the business of supplying you telephone number information not only in your own area, but also on a national basis.
So you think (logically) that your CAS already charges $0.75 for each 411 information call, so you must be covered, right? WRONG!
After the LEC 411operator center (all automated with very few live operators) gives the requested number to the guest dialing 411, a recording is played by the LEC that says something like: “If you wish, we can connect you to that number. Please touch one on your touchtone keypad.”
Wonderful, now your property is charged for a “connect” fee of $0.33 to $0.50 to just CONNECT that information call. And guess what? That guest can speak for as long as they want ON YOUR LINES and at YOUR EXPENSE for as long as they like.
Here’s some math to contemplate, right to your bottom line: The initial LOCAL 411 charge to the property to call 411 costs between $0.50 – $0.75. Then add the $0.33 – $0.50 cents for the “connect” fee and your true cost is between $0.88 – $1.25. So you just lost $0.50 for that 411 call. But wait a minute, the guest touched that number “1” key on their guestroom phone and now the guest is talking for free! YOU are now paying a per minute charge for that guest and your call accounting system can’t pick it up, and you can’t suppress the phone equipment from dialing that 4th digit, that ominous number “1” to authorize direct connection to the “411” number requested.
IS THAT ALL THAT I AM LOSING?
No folks, we wish it were. But it gets much worse. As previously stated your telephone company (LEC) now has decided to supply its customers with long distance directory service by dialing “411”. O.K., Your guest requests a number in another state or outside of your local area. Now the initial information charge is between $1.75 to $2.25. Your guest hits that magic “1” button on their guest room phone and zap, you are hit with another $0.33 – $0.50 for that long distance connection.
So your initial cost is about $2.25 without the guest even saying one word to the other party. Now figure in what you would be charging for LD rates. $1.00 a minute, $1.50 a minute if you had captured the call revenue beyond the “411” connection fee? A five minute conversation translates into lost revenue of over $7.50 per call, while you collect just $0.75 for that “411” call. The “average” hotel has 10 guests making 411 or XXX-555-1212 calls a day. 10 times $7.50 = $75.00 a day times 365 days a year equal $27,375 a year per property. That $27,375 is not lost revenue, it is an actual EXPENSE.
O.K., NOW I UNDERSTAND. BUT HOW DO I FIX IT?
Now that is where the tricky stuff comes in. But before we give you the answers, here are some of the things that you can’t do, and things to watch out for. Your phone company will not help you. The PBX provider cannot block that 4th digit from being dialed. Your CAS can’t accurately bill the call, as the system doesn’t know if you just dialed 411 + 1, or if you asked for long distance information. If you PBX is programmed for XXX-555-1212, the CAS also will not pick up the information that the guest dialed “1”.
Now for the answers. The solution is not expensive, is painless, and no dialing plan changes are required. Plus the calls are handled by live operators who will not connect the call or make a “reverse directory” look up. (Ah, I see another article coming). AND, the actual 411 (whether local or long distance) call averages $0.39 versus the current $0.45 to $1.25 that you pay.
So now we have your attention, huh?
The only answer as of this writing is to utilize third party providers. Period. They are perfectly legal and meet all local and FCC regulations. A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION …..Deal directly with the vendor, NOT with an agent! Some “consultants” are really agents for vendors. Check with the Society of Telecommunications Consultants in order to find a legitimate consultant who will not take a fee from you and the vendor. Legitimate consultants will only charge the client a fee, not both.
Perhaps you want to do it by yourself, that’s fine too. The following are but a few vendors. This list is far from complete. PLEASE NOTE: Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. does not endorse nor recommend ANY specific vendor. Therefore please do not construe these vendors as our choices or recommendations. ComTrust , DirectoryNet ,Experian , 411Saver , National Directory Information Services
Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. was founded in 1985 by Les Spielman in North Hollywood, California, and quickly spread to work with clients’ worldwide. Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. provides comprehensive and specialized consulting services to developers, architects, corporations, management companies, and general business offices where voice, and data applications are essential. Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. serves both in the traditional consultant’s mode and as long-range automation and telecommunications strategic planners.