This company found a better way to manage mobile bills for 2,700 employees

Credit: Lifesize

Advantage Sales and Marketing is no stranger to issuing company-owned smartphones, tablets, and air cards to field workers: the company started issuing cellphones back in 2003, with other devices being deployed as they hit the market.

But with 2,700 of their 35,000 employees using mobile devices by 2012, the act of collecting, reviewing, appealing, and paying the related bills for all of those critical workplace tools had simply become too onerous.

Businesses don't usually mention the task of tracking and paying such bills as a big job – there are already plenty of other mobile-related issues keeping them busy, from data security to user policies to privacy concerns.

At Advantage, however, the two weeks each month that it took one person to review and pay several thousand mobile service bills finally took their toll, and something had to be done.

"We've gone from about 700 lines of service to over 2,700 lines, across multiple carriers" over the years, said Liz Turner, a strategic sourcing analyst for Advantage. Each one of the service lines covers the use of a smartphone, tablet, or air card for an employee who is in in the field working with their customers.

In January 2012, Advantage finally got help when it started using a web-based application, Visage MobilityCentral, to compile, track, review and pay all of the bills for the 2,700 mobile devices used by its workers.

MobilityCentral features a web browser-based dashboard that allows users to bring all of their mobile service bills into one place from the four major U.S. carriers -- ATT, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile -- so they can be streamlined, audited, and processed in one place. The service starts at under $5 per user per month, with discounts depending on the number of mobile accounts being tracked. The SaaS product features a secure log-in and allows the importing of electronic mobile service bills right into the system.

"I can go into one place, get all my data, figure out who's using more minutes or data than they should, what lines haven't had any activity in several months that I can cancel and whether  we are erroneously being billed for any activation fees," said Turner. By doing that work using MobilityCentral, it means that Turner no longer has to manually down 15 or more separate reports from mobile providers Verizon and ATT and then audit those reports.

What used to take her two full weeks each month to do has been cut to less than half of that time, said Turner.

"I probably spend four days on it now each month," she said. "That's a huge savings. I don't have to work at home all that much anymore" to get it completed.

And besides the labor savings, Advantage can more easily track and audit the mobile bills to be sure that the company isn't being overcharged, while also making it easier for employees who don't have to lay out the cash for their mobile bills and seek reimbursement each month, she said.

"There are all kinds of credits we're supposed to get" from the carriers, for international service charges that are not supposed to be billed for workers who don't have company-approved international calling plans, to errant charges for special ring tones and other extras, said Turner. "We find this stuff in the bills on a regular basis. And service activation fees are not supposed to be charged to us, and they were still showing up."

So even though she still spends four days a month going over the bills, it's definitely worth the savings the company sees, she said. The workers who use the mobile devices also save lots of time that they'd otherwise spend managing and reviewing their own bills.

Advantage offers employees a limited selection of mobile devices through their own online, branded mobile device store where employees can choose their devices using ATT or Verizon and set up accounts that will be billed directly to the company.

"It saves money for us because with more people on the plans, we get better rates," said Turner. "We get way better prices than we would pay the associate for reimbursement if they would have to pay their own cell phone bill."

Since she began managing the company's mobile device bills starting in 2009, the number of users and device accounts has jumped from 1,400 to about 2,700 today.

"It's a lot easier to understand now using MobilityCentral," she said. "There's a huge learning curve in terms of understanding the carriers' web sites and the billing process – each carrier is different – and understanding what the nomenclatures are all about."

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