D+AS MAGAZINE

FEATURES — Cell Phones for Your Installers?

© 2000 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2000
Author: Betsy Ripplinger
Pages 30-31

Cell Phones for Your Installers?

Special to Door & Access Systems

Is it time to join the cellular surge and put cell phones in your service trucks?

The cost of cellular service is now so reasonable, cell phones are used everywhere. Chances are, a number of your employees are already toting a personal phone.

For your door business, it may now be cost-effective to use cell phones instead of two-way radios to communicate with your field personnel. Two-way radios shut down when you turn off the truck, but a cell phone is always ready. Plus, you can now buy cell phones that are equipped with two-way radio capability.

Cellular companies are now fiercely competing for your business. Prices for phones, accessories, and calling plans have been dropping, and plans are more flexible now than ever.

Trying to keep up with the maze of cellular plans can make you dizzy. In this article, we try to cut through the glitz and give you a quick look at the key issues involved in buying cell phone service for your door business.

Assess Your Need

“You should consider several issues when selecting your cellular phone plans and units,” adds Sally Williams, Retail Sales Manager of Verizon Wireless. “It’s important to understand how you will be using your phones. Will you be calling nationally, regionally, or locally? How often are you communicating with each other within the company? Will your business be affected if you suddenly lose service when you hit a dead area?”


Ten Questions

Once you have evaluated your usage and determined the companies that offer service, you can then investigate the differing plans and features. Here are ten questions to ask your cell phone service provider:

1 Is there an activation fee? ($25-$30 is common.)
2 Do I have to sign a contract? What is the length of the contract? Is there an early cancellation fee?
3 What is the cost of monthly service?
4 What is the service area (in which calls are "free")?
5 How many minutes does the plan include? How much are additional minutes?
6 Are long distance minutes included? If not, what do they cost?
7 Are roaming charges included? If not, how much are they?
8 Can I "pool" my minutes and have several phones drawing from the same bank of minutes?
9 How much is voice mail? Caller ID? Call waiting? 3-way calling? Which phone model provides the best features for me?
10 What is the cost of the phone itself?


Phone Buying Tips

Phones can be purchased separately, but the phones are often cheaper when purchased with the service. The cost of your cell phone can range from $50 to $500, depending upon features. With a rebate, your phone could be free. If buying in quantity, ask for a volume deal. Be prepared for additional costs for accessories such as a speakerphone or headset (think safety), carrying case, batteries, and a charger.

Right now, cellular service (800 MHz) is available almost everywhere in the U.S., while the new digital networks (1900 MHz) are not. But that is changing. Digital service improves call quality and allows features such as caller ID, Internet access, and extended battery life. Buy a dual- or tri-band digital phone to automatically switch to analog networks where digital service is not available.

Consider dealing with a reputable company whose primary focus is cellular phones. Developing a relationship with a rep can help you in terms of pricing as well as service, if you have a problem down the road.

The Extras

Cellular companies are getting into many other auxiliary services. These include roadside assistance, cell phone insurance, Internet service (for weather, scores, stocks, news, etc.), E-mail, and text messaging.

Jim Grace’s Overhead Door distributorship in Providence, R.I., had Nextel phones that include digital two-way radios, but he eventually gave them away. “They were heavier, and you have to hold down the button to use the two-way radio,” he explains.

All his field personnel now have regular phones that are programmed so they can call only specific numbers, such as the office, other technicians, and key manufacturers. With their Verizon service plan, the phones are not charged for minutes used on phone-to-phone conversations. “The guys love ‘em,” says Grace.

Jim had Internet service on his personal phone, but he quit using it. “It takes too long to download the service,” says Grace. “It eats up your minutes.”

The Pool Plan

Garry Stewart of The Doorman Service in Kent, Washington, found a pool plan that he says is working well for his dealership. “We have 15 phones with a pool of 9,000 minutes per month. The guys can call each other from their phones, and it all comes out of the same pool,” Stewart says.

Stewart pays $750 per month for this plan. “But I tell them if they are calling the shop to talk to someone in the warehouse, don’t call the cell phone of the warehouse guy. Call the shop’s landline and ask for the warehouse guy. That way, only one cell phone is being charged minutes.”

Shop Around

See the chart to the right for some sample Midwestern service plans. Providers in your area may offer dozens of varying plans, so take the time to comparison shop. After you sign up, keep an eye on new and better deals, since you can always adjust your plan.

To research the cost of cell phone services in your area, go to www.getconnected.com, click on Wireless, and enter your zip code in the wizard. The site provides an impartial comparison of the full details of a wide variety of plans available in your area.

Good communication is a critical issue for any door business. For you, cell phones may answer the call for quick, cost-effective communication.


Sample Plans

Provider
AT&T Wireless
Sprint PCS
Nextel
Plan
Regional Advantage
Free & Clear 500
Nat’l Bus. Plan 400
Monthly fee
69.99
49.99
69.95
Minutes included
600
500
400
Cost for each add’l minute
.25
.30
.25
Roaming fees/minute
.00 - .60
.39 - .69
Included
Long distance rate/min.
Included
.15
Included


Verizon Wireless SingleRate Great Lakes

Monthly fee
19.99
29.99
39.95
49.99
69.99
99.99
Anytime minutes
50
250
400
600
800
1200

Long distance calls are included. No roaming charges for calls made within eight states from Minnesota to Missouri to Ohio.