Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call on March 10, 1876, and five months later made the first long-distance call over a distance of about six miles. Shortly thereafter, he received an incredibly confusing 10-page bill with a variety of calling, service and subscriber line charges.

OK, that last part isn’t true, but it does seem as though perplexing telephone billing practices have been around almost as long as the phone itself. Over the years, bills have become so detailed and complex that few people fully understand what they’re paying for.

The problem is particularly acute for businesses that have a multitude of phone lines and possibly a variety of calling plans. It is not uncommon for some large organizations to receive several dozen monthly invoices for voice and data services. This makes it incredibly hard to identify billing errors, overlapping contracts, unauthorized charges and other factors that contribute to ballooning costs.

Nearly one-fifth of the typical IT budget is spent on telecom services, yet most organizations lack the time and expertise to determine if their bills are accurate. Studies show that up to 85 percent of large and midsize businesses don’t audit their bills at all — they simply pay them in full.

That can result in a lot of waste. Gartner researchers have estimated that billing errors represent as much as 14 percent of the telecom spend. A survey of telecom consulting firms reported that they discover errors in 81 percent of their clients’ bills. In many cases, these errors exceeded 20 percent of invoice.

That level of waste is not sustainable. To effectively manage critical connectivity for customers, mobile employees, remote offices, offsite data centers and the cloud, organizations must take steps to collect critical information, organize the data and look for ways to reduce costs.

Few organizations can justify the expense of hiring full-time staff to manage telecom expenses. That’s why we’ve made telecom expense management a component of the services we provide our customers.

Our telecom expense management service involves a set of processes, analytic methods and software tools we employ to evaluate voice and data connectivity services, infrastructure and associated expenses. With this approach, we help customers identify and resolve billing errors, optimize service plans, manage used and unused assets and services, optimize spending and save money.

Analysts with specific telecom expertise can conduct a thorough audit of your existing carrier services and suggest changes that will simplify the environment and reduce costs. Additionally, the audit process will create a complete inventory of all voice lines, data lines and Internet services being billed. It will identify mobile devices that are not being used so they can be cancelled.

Mobile service plans also require constant attention. Unless a device has an unlimited data plan, overages can result in unnecessary monthly expenses. Roaming charges often produce price spikes, so it’s important to educate employees about enabling Wi-Fi calling. Additionally, we can suggest solutions such as the ShoreTel Mobility Client that can perform an automatic handover between cellular and wireless voice networks.

Telecom bills are notoriously confusing, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Emerging technologies and services continually increase the number of options, leaving organizations to puzzle over the best mix of price, performance and availability. Because analyzing those options isn’t a core capability for most organizations, working with IPC is a good call.