You’ve seen the headline titles on conference call provider websites, such as “UK’s Most Affordable Conference Call Provider”, or the more amusing statements as, “Truly Free Conference Call Providers”. The facts are this; “free”, “affordable” and “cheap” when it comes to teleconferencing, is anything but.
The “service” is “free” / “cheap”
There’s a cunning ploy within this industry (and we want it abolished). It’s the clever marketing talk for that’s used, that, if you buy in to their sales spiel, you’ll be misdirected in to thinking there’s no costs associated to you picking up the phone and dialling in to this service – you’d be wrong.
Why? Well, we need to remember there are several ‘middlemen’ between you and those you are making the conference call with. First of all, you and the other attendees are connecting to the conference call service with your own phone/mobile, thus, making use of the network you belong to, be it, BT, 02, Virgin, etc.
Secondly, there’s the conference call service provider – the ones that connect all attendees together. THIS is the part of the service that is truly “free” or “cheap”, i.e., “Hey, we’ll connect you all together on our service for free”, but, what they forget to tell you is, they’re more often than not, making use of a premium phone number, such as an 0845, or 0843 – this is the bit that will bite you in the butt, depending on which telephone network contract you’re on.
As explained on the OFCOM website, “The cost of calling 0843, 0844 and 0845 numbers is made up of two parts: an access charge going to your phone company, and a service charge set by the organisation you are calling. The service charge for calls to 084 numbers is between 0p and 7p per minute. You can find out the access charge for this number – which is the rest of the call cost – from your phone company.” (Price last checked on 24 July, 2018).
Now, 7p per minute may not seem much. However, remember this is a per attendee charge. So, a call for 60 minutes with 10 attendees would cost a total of; £42. Now, imagine you have this call once a week, for a year. That is £2,184 in call charges. And guess what? This is way more expensive that a ‘quality’ conference call provider that charges a monthly fee.
But, that’s not even half the story.
The true cost is more expensive than £2,184 per year
Sure, £2,184 already sounds harsh for nothing more than an hour on the phone once a week, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s not the true cost. This is;
These “cheap” and “affordable” conference call providers typically make their money from the phone number you call, i.e., the 084X number. It’s typically on a ‘revenue share’ with the network company that own the phone number, so, if the call cost to you is 7p, the conference call provider may see 1, or 2p from this.
How does a company make a profit from a revenue share option like this? Well, the answer is; with difficulty. Thus, you will typically find that these 084X based companies are run on a shoestring, from the customer service team (perhaps the ‘boss’ is also the sales person and customer support person and let’s not even talk about servers. If you think the government is bad with the stereotypical signing of contracts to the lowest bidder, you’ve seen nothing yet.
Now, imagine, you’ve got a successful company and you’re having your first conference call with one of your best paying customers and/or a potential customer, that, if you land the work, will be a great pay day for you. Now, let’s imagine you’ve put all your work and effort to waste, because you’ve now gone and relied on a “cheap” provider to get the job done, where issues will not be resolved quickly and servers will be stretched to the max, providing the worst audio quality possible.