Converting from Standard Business Lines to a PRI Circuit; Three Things Every Business Owner Should Know

One of my primary jobs as a sales person/retention specialist at a small telecommunications company is periodically looking at my customer’s accounts and using my telecom expertise (acquired from more than a decade working in the field) to determine what kind of products they might need.

More often than not, however, one of my unwritten duties with the company is fielding customer calls and discussing items they don’t need. This is particularly true when it comes to PRI (short for Prime Rate Interface) circuits; something a lot of phone vendors are trying to convince their customers they need instead of regular phone lines.

While a PRI is a good choice for many mid-sized and large businesses, it isn’t the best choice for everyone. So, if you have someone trying to tell you to do this, there are three important things you should know.

First of all, a PRI isn’t necessarily going to save you money. I have heard this time and time and again from customers; either because they read it somewhere or they have some sales person telling them this. However, while that is true for some customers, it isn’t true for all of them.

There are a number of factors that affect this. The main one is how many phone lines you currently have and need. A PRI circuit is the equivalent of 23 voice lines and the price is based on that (with a per-trunk reduction). When it comes to my customers, I’ve found I can usually save them some money with this type of circuit if they are using more than 15 lines. Anything less than that and the circuit will be a more expensive choice.

Another thing that affects this is the lines that can’t be rolled into a PRI circuit. Most (good) vendors choose to keep fax lines and alarm lines separate from the PRI and those are going to have their own charges. In fact, many of my PRI quotes that are higher in price are because of the extra lines.

There are other good reasons a vendor might want you to have a PRI; more call paths, the ability to give each extension its own private direct number, etc. But, if you are only being told to do it because it will save you money, you’ll want to look twice.

Second, not all phone systems are equipped for this type of circuit. Most of the time, if a vendor is pushing this type of circuit on a customer, it’s because they are trying to sell them a new phone system. But, I do occasionally have customers call in wanting to make this change with an existing phone system.

This, however, isn’t always something that can be done. Some older PBX phone systems either won’t work with this type of circuit or require some sort of upgrade (usually a very expensive upgrade).

Whenever I have a customer call in for a change like this, the first thing I do before quoting them a price is have them contact their phone system manufacturer to find out if it can even use this type of service. Most of the time, the customer calls back saying they changed their mind.

Third, invest time and money in a site survey before signing a contract. A couple years ago, I had a school district sign up for a PRI with me. Everything is OK now but installing that circuit was a nightmare.

Shortly after the circuit was installed (which meant they were locked into a contract with us), they discovered the lines they had intended on using the circuit for were connected to a completely different phone system that was not PRI ready and some other lines they had told us to move to the new circuit were actually connected to their security system.

This created a big mess that ended up costing the school district thousands of dollars more than they were budgeting for and all the problems would have been avoided if they would have spent a couple hundred to have someone do a site survey first.

Installing a PRI circuit could be the best decision you ever made or it could be the worst. Take the time to make sure it’s the right choice for you before signing any contracts for one.

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