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Phone Service & Business Listing Problems

Switching Phone Companies – Most business have considered switching from their traditional utility local landline phone company to a lower-cost alternative such as Comcast, Telepacific, Integra, etc. These cable companies, independents, and resellers are called Competitive Local Exchange Carriers, or CLECs. Some of them have their own switching equipment and actually handle the routing of your calls, but many of them are resellers, buying lines from the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) and reselling them for a profit. Until deregulation (spurred by the Telecommunications Act of 1996), ILECs– companies like AT&T, Qwest, and Verizon—were the only local phone companies.

Potential problems of switching – Many of our clients have found the problems they suffered with CLECs were not worth the cost savings. Common CLEC-related problems include:

Some CLECs are much better than others in dealing with listings issues. In any case, if you do experience listing problems, they must be corrected by the CLEC, as ILECs legally cannot correct them.

The reasons for CLEC listing problems are both internal and external:

  1. their lack of listing experience/expertise in listing issues, especially complex listings
  2. their focus on other more profitable services, like internet
  3. inadequacy of telecom industry guidelines governing listing information; and
  4. inadequacy of telecom industry guidelines governing between CLECs and ILECs

Impact of Listing Errors – The negative repercussions of inaccurate listing information are even greater as data moves increasingly online. Today, bad listing information from CLECs is the source of errors and omissions not only in 411 and the phone book but in countless online listing databases, such as Google Places, Yelp, and YP.com, which often pull information directly from the phone companies.

The most common listing problem we see is the wrong company name, especially common when there are multiple locations for a given company — for example, from “ABC Pizzeria” to “Menlo Park Pizzeria”. This is caused by the phone company’s distinction between the “account name”, or “billing name”, and the “listing name”, which the customer is unaware of. The account or billing name the customer establishes ends up inadvertently being used as their listing name in 411, the phone book, and all online databases that pull from these sources. This makes it hard for customers find you, as you will now be listed alphabetically under “M” instead of under “A”, in the example above.

Questions to Ask Before Switching – Because it is so difficult to ensure or negotiate accurate listing information with CLECs, we strongly urge you not to sign with a CLEC without extensive screening. We suggest asking your prospective CLEC these 5 questions:

  1. Can you verify in writing the savings you claim?
    Additional one-time, monthly, or miscellaneous service charges and rounding differences may reduce potential savings.
  2. Do I have to pay to have my number listed in the white and yellow pages of my local phone book?
    Most ILECs include one free 411/white pages and yellow pages listing as part of your monthly phone service, but these free listings may not apply if you change to a CLEC.
  3. Can you assure me that the formatting of all my business listings will be re-established in exactly the same format as they currently appear?
  4. Do you have a listings expert who can resolve any listings problems that may arise, especially with respect to captions?
  5. Will I have a dedicated rep to help me with any service issues?
    We urge you to take careful notes for each interaction you have with the CLEC, including contact name, number and email, date, and service order activity numbers (if applicable).

It is much easier to prevent these problems in advance by choosing the right company than to correct them after the fact, which is sometimes nearly impossible.

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