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Different plans and policies serve growing business cell phone use

Everyone wonders how they managed without them. But as businesses rely more and more on the use of cell phones, policies and plans must be put in place and reviewed as needs change.

“We review our policy often,” said Clyde Hubbard, executive vice president of operations for BancorpSouth Bank. “We have contracts with a few vendors because we operate in eight states and have various arrangements where we get the best coverage. We assess our needs and the technology coming down the pike.”

Personnel have different business needs too. There are approximately 400 company cell phones and 200 other telecommunication devices in use, and management monitors the monthly bills.

“We will continue to take advantage of new technologies and the latest security,” Hubbard said. “We want to make sure we have everything secure and password protected, plus have a way to clear information off if a phone is lost.”

At the Woodridge Group in Ridgeland, all four partners use cell phones and three use Blackberries. “These devices help us get more done in a day. I don’t know how we did it before,” said Danny Williams. “We have a general policy regarding their use, keeping in mind the integrity of the business.”
Because the company is small, the partners have different plans with each making his own decisions. They have, however, discussed consolidating with one carrier to take advantage of efficiencies.

‘Indispensable’

The real estate industry seems custom made for cell phone usage to insure that no sales calls are missed. “Oh gosh, it’s indispensable,” said Mark Cumbest, owner of Cumbest Realty of Pascagoula and chairman of the Mississippi Real Estate Commission. “It’s extremely important. I don’t know how anyone in real estate operates without it.”

He was one of the first realtors on the Coast to get a cell phone and upgrades his plan periodically. Now he has a Blackberry too and finds he’s able to keep in better touch with customers. This year he may add an iPhone as the latest technology to make him more efficient.

“Before cell phones, I would come back from showing property and find a bunch of handwritten paper messages,” he said. “After dinner, I returned phone calls until it was too late to call people. With a cell phone I don’t have to do that.”

Jim Richmond, Cellular South’s director of communications said the carrier’s sales team recommends that businesses review their plans and features at least on a quarterly basis.

“Several years back, businesses had a tough time managing their phone accounts. They had to keep up with items like the number of minutes they were using, who was going over their allotted number of minutes and who was making personal calls and running up their bill,” he said.

Now, his company’s strategy is to make wireless simple for customers. Toward that goal, Cellular South has an e-mail address for business users that goes to a team dedicated to supporting business customers.

“As we rolled out our innovative, unlimited plans, the need to track all of this information went away,” he affirmed. “With these plans it is very simple for a business to budget for wireless and keep within their budget. Businesses also need to utilize tools such as plan rate analysis and websites dedicated to assist them.”

‘Seamless’

Sue Sperry, spokeswoman for AT&T in Mississippi and Louisiana, says the company that acquired Cingular Wireless, is seeing businesses taking out cell phone plans in a huge way, all sizes of businesses.

“The trend is for seamless communication and it’s a lot more data driven,” she said. “Companies are looking for ways to keep people productive. Technology changes so fast, all businesses should look at their plans on a regular basis. They could be missing opportunities to save money and time.”

She cites a few of the latest communication gadgets – the Blackberry, a standard feature for many businesses; Blackjack II, very popular and compact; and the new Motorola Tilt, like a mini laptop keyboard.

“Doctors especially like the Motorola Tilt. It’s thicker than a regular cell phone because the mini keyboard slides out,” she said. “It fits in a pocket and is an all-in-one device. That’s where technology is going, and that’s what businesses are looking for.”

Richmond says Cellular South prides itself on being an innovative leader in mobile commerce and was the first to market several products, including OboPay and Pic Sender. They also conducted a successful consumer trial for Wireless Wallet, the first of its kind in the nation.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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