Bundled Services -- Bundles of Savings¹

Bundled Services -- Bundles of Savings

As technology blurs the lines that once divided providers of voice, data and video services, communications companies are responding with attractive offers that "bundle" a variety of services into a unified package with, in most cases, substantial savings over the cost of ordering the same services individually or from different suppliers.

Communications bundles can vary among providers, but most offer a combination of voice, data, television, and, at times, wireless services at attractive rates. As communications companies expand their offerings into new areas, they hope discounted prices and the convenience of dealing with fewer providers will help them lock in small business customers (and improve their return on capital-intensive investments in their service networks).

Many providers offer these plans under variations of the name "triple play," reflecting the supplying of voice, data and video services over the same delivery platform. Adding wireless services extends the theme further into a "quad" offering that may use a variety of names.

Combining Services

The most common bundled offerings for small businesses include unlimited local and long distance voice services together with a high-speed Internet connection. Instead of counting minutes or worrying about the cost of a long distance call, business owners enjoy the certainty of a fixed price that remains the same every month.

As with local service, these bundles often include features such as Call Waiting, Voicemail, and CallerID among others, and some providers allow small business customers to create custom bundles with services such as a toll-free number and discounted international calling.

In addition to cost savings, ordering a service bundle also gives small businesses the convenience of dealing with one communications provider and one monthly bill. And since your business receives a range of services, you may gain more bargaining power with your provider's sales representatives.

Another potential advantage of bundled services is the ability to add or change your bundle if your business needs change over time. In most instances, using one provider for communications services allows you to change your package either online or with a single phone call to the provider.

Check the Details

As attractive as a bundled offering sounds, it's important to look beyond the price to ensure the underlying services are going to meet your business's needs. For instance, if your communications provider is selling a service that is actually delivered by a different provider, the quality of your service and experience may not be the same across all of the bundle's elements.

A service that does not help your business reach customers is not a bargain, so ask around and research your options carefully.

In some situations, a problem with one service can affect others that share the same delivery platform. Getting the service fixed can be a customer service challenge, and getting in touch with the right person from the right department may take some persistence on your part.

Similarly, a bundled offering may require a service commitment for a year or longer. Such a commitment will not likely be a problem if you're pleased with the service, but can be annoying when one or two pieces of the bundle are not meeting your expectations.

It is also important to pay attention to the terms of your agreement, especially when you're being offered an introductory or a promotional rate. A price that seems very attractive when you first sign up for the service may expire after 12 months, so you should check the details of any new offer to avoid surprises later.