This term, which became popular about a decade ago and is not very politically correct today, has been used by many Telecom and IT businesses to try to garner more business from their customers.
The premise is that if more or even all your technology services are delivered by a single service provider, then this provider will be better able to manage these services and you, the customer, will have one bill to pay and, more importantly, one person or entity to yell at when things go wrong.
So these firms went out and developed, purchased or partnered with other providers to develop bundles of services and began to market these to their customer base. The results have been great for the providers but have they also been great for the customers?
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this model for the customer.
- One bill to pay
- Single point of contact for customer support
- Bundled discount for multiple services purchased
- Long contracts for all services and difficult to unbundle
- Single point of failure
- Limited service choice
- Limited expertise
….. and so on ……
One bill to pay
While this was a feature of convenience a decade ago, is it really that important today? Most providers offer very convenient payment methods and even annual payments with corresponding discounts to make payment very easy.
Single point of contact for customer support
This is a big one. When you subscribe to multiple services with one provider, you only have one number to call for any service or support issue. At least that is the theory behind this. While some providers have integrated their service and support offerings and can truly offer a “one-stop-shop” many or should I dare to say, most, are far from that ideal. What you typically end up with is a single Automated Attendant which will direct your call to the department that handles each service. That means you will be transferred to another department to deal with another service. Many times, that other department is actually another company that is providing services to you but using your main providers brand (this is referred to as “white labelling”). So are you really getting a single point of contact and “one-stop-shop”?
It is important to do your homework and ask questions about how service and support are handled for all services offered by your provider.
Bundled discount for multiple services purchased
This can be quite advantageous if your provider offers such discounts. Many times, services that have been developed and offered using the same platforms or networks, are more efficient to deliver and thus permit the provider to offer significant bundled discounts to their customers.
Ask your provider if they offer such discounts and take advantage of these bundles.
Long contracts for all services and difficult to unbundle
Related to the previous point, when bundling services, you will likely need to sign a contract for the bundle. Be careful not to commit to the term if you are not certain that you will be happy with all bundled services. Sometimes cancelling one service may lead to penalties and an increase in the price of the other services. Savings are important but flexibility may be something that is important for your business so ask the questions up front and make sure you know what you are signing up for.
Single point of failure
When your provider uses the same platform to deliver multiple services you are at risk of losing all services when they experience an outage. This can be devastating for your business. Ask them about single points of failure and about what they do to mitigate such failures. In addition, negotiate an SLA (service level agreement) that guarantees performance and has penalties if they do not meet the required service level.
A very important point on SLAs here. No provider will ever agree to compensate your business for any business losses due to their failure. If your business depends on their services, make sure you 1. Have a backup for when they fail (even the largest ones will fail) and 2. Make sure your business insurance covers you for any losses incurred due to provider outages.
Limited service choice
When you subscribe to multiple services with one provider you are not always getting the best value from all services. If you shop for all these services individually you would, in theory, select the services that best meet your needs and provide the most value for your business. The services offered by your main provider are not always the best for your business. They are the ones that they developed or partnered with to deliver so your choice is limited.
Who has time to shop for all these services? Perhaps that is true but a bit more time upfront may be better for your business in the long term.
Along with limited choice sometimes comes limited expertise.
- Is your ISP (Internet Service Provider) the best choice to provide hosting or collocation services?
- Is your VoIP provider the best choice for Cloud Call Center Services?
- Is your Cloud Contact Center provider the best choice for WFM (Workforce Management) services?
- Is your MSP (Managed Service Provider or your IT company) the best choice for SD-WAN services?
- Is your phone company the best choice for IoT (Internet of Things) services?
The answer to all these questions is: Maybe but not likely.
Service bundles and “white-labelled” services are marketing instruments. They are designed to maximize the revenue your service provider generates from each customer. They also help specialized providers access large customer bases by offering their services using a large provider’s brand. They are also hugely convenient because they save you a lot of time and hassles to try to source the required services for your business. This may be daunting for some people so they choose the easy and convenient way of dealing with the same provider for multiple services.
In the end, however, with some homework and due diligence, you can find the services that meet your business’s specific needs at the right price and under acceptable conditions.