You might not think that this question has anything to with global communication and the telecom industry. Yet some might argue that it has everything to do with your professional endeavors.
But first, consider the different types of pain that we experience as human beings. There is somatic pain, which we feel in the skin and deep tissues, such as the postsurgical pain from a surgical incision. There is visceral pain, which we feel when our internal organs are damaged or injured. And then there is neuropathic pain, which is caused by injury or malfunction to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves. These are all sensory pains, and they can all be quite unpleasant.
Now consider a different type of pain: emotional pain. Better yet, consider anguish. When we experience anguish, we feel excruciating distress and acute suffering. We feel pain, even if the root of that pain isn’t entirely physical. And we often feel anguish in the face of public humiliation.
I think that most of us would prefer short bursts of severe sensory pain to public humiliation. Furthermore, we’d like to avoid humiliation and its corresponding pain altogether. No one likes to be humiliated, especially if that humiliation is the result of a terrible decision that affects their business.
And so I ask again: what is your threshold for pain? Because if you want to optimize your business and telecom decisions, then you should consider which options will minimize the likelihood that you’ll experience the pain of an ill-conceived decision.
Allow me to illustrate my point: in my early telecom years, the manager of a call center told me that if I did not offer lower than a penny a minute, he was not interested. I stopped and looked around his vast call center of about 500 people and asked him my favorite question: “What is your threshold for pain?” He looked utterly perplexed as he asked me what that question had to do with our conversation.
I said to him, “You have 500 people on the floor in your call center, each making about $10 an hour, or $5000 an hourly. How much money would you lose if there was a fiber cut and you could not make calls for half of the day?”
He remained silent. I continued: “Let’s use $25,000 ($20,000 in profit, and $5,000 in wages) for half a day. What would happen if your customers tried calling your employees for hours only to receive a fast busy? How do you tell the CEO that you just sent home all 500 people and that his thriving business was out of business for half of the day just because you wanted to save three-tenths of a penny on long distance?”
The manager looked on in stunned yet contemplative silence as I reminded him that his monthly long distance bill was $25,000 per month: the exact amount the business would lose on a half-day outage. I then revealed that I could give him less than a penny a minute, but I would also guarantee him an average of two half-day outages per year.
Long story short, I sold this customer a rate of almost two cents per minute and guaranteed him 99.99% redundancy over a self-healing network. That was 15 years ago. Today this company is still our customer and the telecom manager is now a personal friend.
A more recent example involves a client who was looking for two redundant MPLS networks. We presented six options, and the clients were interested in the two lowest cost options. Once again, I asked, “What is your threshold for pain?”
Two different MPLS providers doesn’t mean two diverse local loops with diverse entrances. It also doesn’t include custom routing and guaranteed performance. Carrier A may cost less, but when there is a problem, does an engineer capable of troubleshooting a problem pick up phone at the NOC, or does it go to an individual who creates a ticket and puts you into a queue?
To this day, the question still applies when discussing MPLS, unprotected private lines, low cost bandwidth, or tier 1 or 2 colocation with limited power redundancy or generator backup. Sometimes low-priced services come at too great a cost.
Often, they have the potential for too much pain.