The channel’s billing providers continue to rise to the challenge of meeting current and emerging opportunities while keeping pace with the demands of the market.
Here, we explore how three top billers are strategically responding to the requirements of resellers, leaving no door unopened where there is room for improvement.
The expanding comms landscape is increasing the scope of billing providers to evolve and provide specialist services, as well as become drivers of innovation. And it follows that billing must remain a core competency for resellers, emphasised Keith Pearshouse (pictured left), Managing Director,. He noted that with growing pressure on margins due to rising wholesale costs and customers wanting to pay less because of inflation and increasing overhead costs, there has never been a more important time to ensure that a full range of demands are met.
“These requirements include all costs being billed to customers in accordance with the agreed tariff,” he stated. “As well as cancelling wholesale costs where services have been cancelled by the end user; carrying out structured revenue assurance routines; levying cancellation charges where permitted; clawing back commission payments on cancelled services; and increasing customer prices in line with changes in CPI or RPI or other contracted metrics that can play an important role in maintaining margins. With the complexity of services on offer to end users these key disciplines require alerts and automation.”
Effective debt management routines are also key, noted Pearshouse. “Why work hard to have your efforts undermined by a small proportion of customers not paying their bills?” He stated. “Have resellers got adequate controls in place for debt prevention and debt collection routines? Prevention can be achieved by integrating credit checking into customer acquisition; providing alerts for early warning signs such as customers cancelling their direct debit outside of the collection cycle; and reporting the debt performance of each sales partner.”
Symbiant Technologies also helps resellers to review their operational activities through the integration of industry feeds into its billing system and offering a web-based CRM platform with in-built wizards to simplify the processing of customer requests; while giving customers access to their data to self-serve common enquiries and to order new services.
Having well controlled KPIs and reports to help identify and manage trends plays an important part in the due diligence process
According to Pearshouse, between now and 2025 could see a number of mergers and acquisitions which plays into the hands of billing providers. “This will be driven by business owners approaching retirement, others wanting to explore different markets and those not relishing the challenges of the PSTN switch-off,” stated Pearshouse. “The common factor in all cases will be the desire of business owners to maximise shareholder value. In this context, having well controlled KPIs and reports to help identify and manage trends will play an important part in the due diligence process.”
Chris Aylott (pictured left), Head of Product, Union Street Technologies, also noted that business owners seeking to optimise the value of their company come under intense scrutiny during the sale process, and billing plays a big role in making a business more presentable by demonstrating its true value. “It also has implications for information security and compliance with industry regulation which a potential buyer will analyse thoroughly as part of their due diligence,” he added.
Improving the user experience, boosting efficiency, driving tasks and doing bulk updates (especially for price rises) are key aspects of a billing manager’s role. And to make life easier for them Union Street Technologies launched an RPI Increase service in January, which implements bulk price rises across a reseller’s customer base. “It provides a simple way to increase profitability with minimal effort, reducing the risk of errors and mistakes which comes from manually completing bulk price changes,” stated Aylott.
Functionality is fine, but the increase in automated processes is wasting the efforts of resellers to form closer customer relationships
He also noted that the company is looking at how its billing software can ease the pressure on resellers as they prepare for the switch off. “It’s clear that the process of moving end customers onto new services needs to be automated as much as possible, not just for provisioning new services, but also for cleanly ceasing outgoing services,” added Aylott. “Solving this challenge is something we’ve invested time and effort into, developing automated and integrated solutions that streamline the provisioning process.
“As 2025 approaches and work begins in earnest to convert customers away from PSTN/ISDN services, there’s a risk that the ordering and provisioning process will create a bottle neck for resellers. Technology that can help ease their workload, such as process and workflow management tools, will become invaluable as will billing software with versatile provisioning capabilities that help resellers source the right package for themselves and the customer.”
Union Street Technologies launched an end customer portal last year to help resellers meet growing demand for self-service options. Additional self-service features are planned for this year which may include facilities to raise support queries, make payments, manage call barring, assets, upgrades, data top ups and more. “Ultimately, if there’s something the end customer can manage themselves we want them to be able to do so,” added Aylott. “These features will make end users feel more empowered, provide a better customer experience and help resellers to reduce the administrative burden of servicing their base.”
According to Nigel Fox (pictured left), Chairman and CCO, TelXL, while billing is just one facet of an ‘exceptional’ customer experience it impacts other areas, especially now that automation is leveraged across many aspects of billing. “The ever increasing use of process automation in accounts payable frees up significant customer resources,” he commented. “And for the last decade billers have been honing secondary uses of bills, crafting them to do far more than simply set out charges, delivering communication efficiencies such as reminding customers about the end date of their contract or promoting a special offer.
It’s clear that the process of moving end customers onto new services needs to be automated as much as possible, not just for provisioning new services, but also for cleanly ceasing outgoing services
“However, these automated billing processes are removing an opportunity to create a human experience. A balance between the two needs to be found. Functionality is fine, but the increase in automated processes is wasting the efforts of resellers to form closer customer relationships. Instead, resellers need to think more holistically.”