My carrier wants to change my service

Greg Duffy
Posted by Greg Duffy

Has your carrier ever told you that they’re changing your service?

Sometimes carriers change the way they deliver their service to you.   

Their aim could be to make the service better for you, or for them, or somewhere in between.  Changes might relate to network provision, service levels or management, and could be anywhere from very minor to very material. Sometimes you aren’t presented with a choice, or even with much notice, which can leave you feeling offended and concerned, and that the customer has become an after-thought in the race for profit. 

How can you decide whether a change is in your interest? What can you do about it if you aren’t happy with the change, or the way it is being carried out?

Does this change benefit you or the carrier? 

Changes are usually promoted as benefiting the customer, but you may suspect they’re made to suit your carrier. A quick way to get a sense of who benefits is to test for specifics. 

A vague benefit statement might indicate it’s more for your carrier’s benefit: “This will provide a better end to end customer experience”.

A detailed benefit statement often indicates it’s in your interest: “The new Unified Dashboard provides a map and adds incidents, change requests, alerts, availability and summary of impending capacity issues… and Netflow is brought right into the dashboard as a separate tab.”

Should you be concerned about the change?

Most changes aren’t worth sweating over, but sometimes there’s a material change that could impact the continuity, performance and service experience of one of the most critical elements of your IT estate.  For example, the management service.   Whether you’re concerned probably depends on your attitude to a few statements that you might make about the change. Here are some litmus statements:

  • I didn’t ask for the change
  • I’m not clear what the change is
  • I don’t want the change
  • I’m running my business on this network and can’t afford for it to fail or have a reduced service
  • You’re trying to make this change too quickly
  • This is a complex infrastructure and I’m not confident that the plans you’ve presented for the changes are workable.
  • This is a complex infrastructure and you haven’t presented any plans for change that I can assess.

What can you do if you’re concerned about a major change that’s imposed on you?

Here are three steps you might take:

1. Make your concerns clear

Contact your account manager.  Perhaps pick from the statements above.

2. Demand due diligence

There are a number of things you should ask for, that your carrier will struggle to justify refusing.   For example: 

I want to have

  • A face to face meeting with the product team to discuss the change of service
  • A detailed demonstration of the service
  • A review of your transition plan for my company
  • Reference calls with three existing clients of the service team
  • Reference calls with three clients who have already experienced this transition
  • Face to face meetings with my technical pre-sales engineer, provision manager, project manager, lead engineer, and the service manager who will attend my monthly service review meetings
  • A written guarantee that my service will not be impacted in transition or degraded post transition

I want to see

  • The Service Level Agreements, Service Level Guarantees and Key Performance Indicators that will apply
  • Historic performance of the team providing the new service
  • Specific details of services that can and cannot be supported
  • Detailed samples of reporting
  • An up-to-date copy of the Service Management Handbook that will apply
  • Details of how my historical data will be maintained
  • Details of the in-hours and out-of-hours escalation paths
  • The number of customers that the service team currently manage for the same service, of a similar complexity, the same size and in the same location as my business

3. Just Say No!

If you’re still not convinced, then say No!  Your carrier would need a pretty cavalier attitude to your business to ignore your refusal. 

And don’t be put off by assertions that your carrier is within their rights to change your service.  Often there are numerous places within contracts that put you in the driving seat.

Here are some checks you might make on your contract (please don't interpret this as legal advice - we can't offer that and you should get your own):

What did you order? 

  • Does your order form make specific reference to, or describe, the service that your supplier now wants to change?
  • Is there a schedule within your contract pack that describes the service or names the supplier?

What were you promised?

  • What were you told about the service at the time you bought?
  • Was the service presented formally to you? In public? 
  • Was the service demonstrated to you?

What changes can they hold you to?

  • Where specifications can be adjusted so long as there is no reduction to quality or performance, can they show that there is genuinely no such reduction?
  • Where an alternate service can be provided ‘if it is necessary’, can they show that it is genuinely necessary?
  • Where an equivalent service can be provided, can they show that it is genuinely equivalent or better?

What permission do they need from you?

  • Do you need to provide written permission for changes?
  • Do they need to raise a change control request and get your signature, before changes can be made to your devices or services (eg to routers)?

Where are you within your contract lifecycle?

Your commercial and legal options will be influenced by this. Are you:

  • In contract negotiation
  • Just signed but delivery has not yet started
  • Just signed, delivery has started but support has not yet started 
  • Mid-contract
  • Coming to the end of your contract
  • Out of contract

 

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