MobileBlog

News and views on the Canadian telecom industry, and tips and tricks for saving on your cell phone bill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Read of the Week: Marc Saltzman's Toronto Star Article

Check out the article here: http://www.thestar.com/article/888085--how-to-choose-the-best-cellphone-plan

I just got off the phone with my mom after having a nice little conversation about the specifics of taking my cats to the vet and extracting liquid from feline cysts. Riveting stuff! At one point in the conversation she mentioned reading an interesting article in the Star about saving money on your cell-phone bill. As this topic is right up MobileVantage's alley, I thought I'd give it a look. The article gives 5 seemingly simple tips on how Canadians can find the best cell-phone plan for them, and is generally full of good advice. I especially liked his opening line, "Canadians pay the highest cellphone rates in the world". Not only is it truthful, but it would also make a hell of a hook for a MobileVantage pitch: "Hey you, Mr. Respectable Businessman sir. Did you know that Canadians pay the highest cellphone rates in the world? Yes, that's right. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! WE CAN HELP". Oh man, that would totally kill in any sales situation. Thanks a bundle Marc! As for the meat of the article itself, I'd like to break it down into 5 chunks, and comment on each of his suggestions.

1. Personalize the plan

Good call on this one Mr. Saltzman. The best thing you can do for yourself when selecting a plan is to look at your past usage, determine whether your usage patterns may change in the future, and base your plan around that. While that $35 unlimited data plan might seem like a good idea, it's useless if all you want to do on your BlackBerry is check e-mail. Really, the key to getting a cell-phone plan that fits your needs and your wallet is to first understand how you'll be using it. Usage patterns really are the key, and one thing we here at MobileVantage always look at first. In fact, MobileVantage prides itself on lowering our clients' phone bills WITHOUT affecting their usage.

2. Negotiate
“Also, just because you’re locked into a two- or three-year contract doesn’t mean that the terms of that contract can’t be changed mid-stream." Great point here, as negotiating with your provider IN-CONTRACT can actually improve your savings margins substantially. That being said, Saltzman oversimplifies the negotiation process, and says that you can get better rates by just asking for them. I can tell you from experience that doing something this simple will NEVER get you the savings you desire. If you ask the customer service rep for better rates, I guarantee that they will respond by telling you that your current rates are the best they offer. Well if that doesn't get your "BS"-detector going, I don't know what will. The problem is that it's pretty difficult to come right out and say "you're lying" to the rep at the other end of the line, and expect to move forward positively in creating a mutually-beneficial plan agreement. I'm actually really surprised Saltzman doesn't suggest using Mobilicity, Wind Mobile and Public Mobile as bargaining chips, which is something we at MobileVantage have always done to great effect. As one article commenter named "Mythstified" mentioned, this article seems to fit the paradigm that existed in the Canadian Telecom industry three years ago. Why not mention the industry's youngbloods and how their presence can be utilized to leverage yourself into a better plan? That would have really helped transition this article from good to great.

3. Share with Family
This is a tricky one to address, but overall I must say that Saltzman gives some bad advice here. What MobileVantage has found is that Family plans often end up costing people more than they save. My5 is great for some people, and Share20 can be okay as well. The problem really is that being locked into a family plan severely limits your negotiating power (making Saltzman's point #2 rather inconsequential), and most times it's far more cost-effective to go without the features that a family plan offers. Furthermore, family plans often result in pooled minutes, which means that if one member goes over their quota, other members will be left having to reduce their usage, or else face high overuse charges. As an example, say your daughter gets a new super-dreamy boyfriend who she talks to incessantly on the phone. All of a sudden your family doesn't have the minutes they need, and you incur ridiculous usage charges. Sure, your daughter is partially responsible for this, but it's really your crappy Family plan that's to blame!

4. Watch your Usage
Awesome tip here Marc! A great idea to avoid costly overuse charges, and to get a better idea of how you use your phone is to simply monitor your usage. You can check this on your provider's website, request the information over the phone, or even ask for these reports via e-mail. Moreover, if you use a smartphone there's a handful of apps out there that can monitor your usage, give you readouts in easy to understand graphs and charts, and even allow you to set alarms to notify you when you are reaching usage limits. "MiniMoni"and "TeliCost" are both great monitoring applications that you can find more info about online.

5. Unlimited Plans
This is probably my favourite tip of all, because a) if you use your phone a lot, unlimited plans can be a great way to reduce your monthly cellular costs b) Saltzman mentions that these plans aren't for everybody, and can be overly costly if you don't need them (i.e. aren't a heavy user), and c) there's a quote from Sara Moore, Mobilicity's VP Marketing. She's pretty cute as far as VPs of Marketing go (sorry Paul Rowe, VP Marketing of Bell...)

So if you haven't read the article yet, I encourage you to do so. Thanks for the article Marc, and thanks for pointing it out to me Mom. Cya later!


-Griffin

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