Save money on your phone billsThe time when there were few choices of companies to buy your telephone line and other services from has long passed, but with so many suppliers offering different deals it has never been harder to ensure that you have value for money. With the poor exchange rate and low levels of interest many peoples’ budgets are being squeezed and the search for good savings is more challenging than ever before.

So where can you go for honest advice about what will suit you best?

It is easy to save 60% on France Telecom call costs and 30% on most competitors who target the English speaking expat market, and at the same time get the best customer service if you know what to look for. Here is what you need to know.

Beware of unexpected increases

France Telecom, like BT in the UK, is a good but very expensive provider and lots of alternatives can be found. However, be cautious about what you sign up for as some offers only last for a matter of weeks, then the full price often for unwanted services is charged. A number of telecommunications companies like to dress-up promotional deals that are short lived as permanent low prices – so be very careful about what you buy and from where.

Here are two examples to look out for:

A leading French telecommunications company has been known to say to customers wanting to set up a new telephone line, ‘OK that includes two hours of free calls to landlines in France’, giving the impression that this is a permanent tariff. Three months later €3.00 is charged monthly for this call package without any further notice to you.

Another telecommunications company, specifically targeting English speaking expats, also heavily promote their latest offer of ‘Phone line & free calls from €15.95’, but the true offer is a phone line at €15.95 per month and 2 hours of free calls to French landlines for one month only. Thereafter their high charges apply.

Such misleading marketing would not be sustainable in the UK, and therefore many prospective customers newly arrived in France are particularly vulnerable.

Also, some of the telecommunications companies make connection charges that add considerably to the cost of calls. So in order to save as much as possible, find a company that does not make these charges – remember that it costs the providers no more to provide the first minute of a call than the last – so they use this as a device to maximise their profits.

Keep your guard UP!

If you receive a marketing telephone call selling these services, more likely than not, the caller is paid on commission, and consequently they will not share your interests. It is best to look around and find a company that does not incentivise its staff in this way. The next thing to know is what questions to ask. More than most other services, telecom companies find many ingenious ways of hiding costs that allow them to advertise good headline grabbing offers that have big additional charges by the time the bill is calculated. Most of the superficially attractive offers burry these unattractive details deep down in their websites in the Terms & Conditions – so be thorough when you do your research.

All the savings in the world cannot make up for poor service

The commitment to customer care is generally lower in France than the UK, and some of the terminology is difficult to follow in English let alone French, resulting in many customers feeling unable to make confident decisions. All in all, the combination of offers being difficult to understand and a low level of customer support can be reasons for doing nothing. With many other pressing things you may be tempted to give a low priority to making these big savings.

However, paying the top price will not guarantee you any better service.

Good service is driven by good investment in staff training and having the right products and tools to deliver exceptional prices and service. Where customers choose to have their line rental provided by an alternative to France Telecom they need to ensure that their alternative supplier uses the same software as France Telecom to manage the line. They will also use the latest web based tools and software to supply and maintain all the other services purchased.

Don’t become the meat in a sandwich

The days when a customer would ring up to ask for help with a faulty service and be faced with ‘we will call you back in a couple of days’ are still around in France, and the practice still remains where poor levels of staff skills or under staffing exists.

The problem is often worse when customers buy their line rental from one supplier, phone calls from another and broadband or dial-up from yet another provider. If you have chosen a business with poor customer service you can anticipate that some may try to blame another service provider rather than take ownership of the problem. The best solution is to buy as many services from a single provider wherever possible.

Not all problems can be fixed quickly. After all, many electronic components and physical services such as lines and poles are used to bring a service to your door and like cars they will from time to time break down. However, taking ownership of the fault you report is what separates the good from the average provider. The good ones know exactly how to activate the support processes quickly and can keep you advised on the progress being made.

UKtelecom uses exactly the same software as France Telecom to manage all aspects of lines and has equal access to engineers used to maintain them. Their prices specifically exclude connection charges, provide a freefone number for customers to use and have one of the most comprehensive ranges of telephone call packages to help customers make the biggest savings. Customers can also build their own bespoke group of countries for their call packages. Their new broadband service is one of the best with many local exchanges having equipment in them that offer better speeds and prices than generally available. It is the only provider that also allows payment to be made with a UK Direct Debit, something that 25% of its customers find very attractive. All this is backed up by truly bilingual staff so you can be easily understood and kept fully informed.

For further information, visit www.uktelecom.uk.net and click on the 20 page Free Guide. It has everything you need to know in order to make informed decisions and save money.

Bob Elliott, Commercial Director, UKtelecom

Phone: 0805 631 632 (from France)
Phone:+44 (0)1483 833 795 (from the UK)

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