Time to rethink billing

Tekton Director Harry McKeever  argues that it’s prime time to future proof billing platforms and capitalise on them as centres of operational excellence.

Exponential data usage and the adoption of new technologies presents resellers with a rare opportunity to truly differentiate through the solutions they offer and how easily end users can manage those services. And according to McKeever these new market dynamics provide fertile ground for resellers to take a long-term view of their telecoms billing strategy. “Whether your reasoning is a better customer experience or to stay in line with Ofcom’s recent regulation changes, now is the time for resellers to imagine the future of their billing,” he stated.

McKeever noted that it’s becoming easy for users to rip through large amounts of mobile data when you consider the significant uptake of 5G and home working, new high bandwidth consumer products like VR and 4K streaming, as well as businesses moving significant resources to the cloud. “Obviously, these new technologies will bring new connectivity and communication services to the fore – bolt-ons for protected low-latency VR connections, possibly? stated McKeever. “Furthermore, bundles and shared data pools can help businesses – and consumers in some respects – take more control over their data usage and help resellers attract new customers, but only if they have the visibility and ability to customise their services to manage them effectively.”

Towards the end of last year Ofcom’s first of two planned changes went live with three noteworthy aspects to consider: Resellers must now help consumers and small enterprise customers manage their usage and spend on communications services, as well as providing a way of monitoring and controlling their use. They should also give consumers and small enterprise customers timely information on tariff usage and notify customers when allowances have been used up. Thirdly, as well as provide consumers and small enterprise customers with additional information on their usage they need the ability to set usage limits (either financial or volume-related).

“These changes mean that offering this functionality is not just for the end user’s benefit,” added McKeever. “If a reseller wants to minimise the risk of fines and damaged credibility they must offer this functionality or feel Ofcom’s wrath. We were shocked at the number of resellers who reached out to us after discovering their legacy billing solutions were non-compliant with the recent Ofcom updates.”

As stakeholders in end user operations look for more long-term flexibility, especially in opex solutions, McKeever observed that many businesses are gravitating to subscription style services with plenty of inclusive usage. “Not only do these safeguard precious resource for investment in other aspects of the business, but financing is more predictable and service management is typically much more streamlined too,” he said.

“As bundled services become more common users tend to fall out of the habit of keeping an eye on their expenditure, expecting costs to remain stable. This is why it’s so important that end users can set and manage usage or spend alerts, setting bars if they wish for an added layer of protection in case they do exceed their allocations.”

While overage costs are a lucrative revenue boost for channel businesses McKeever argues that a customer with control over their own costs and who keeps within budget would be more profitable in the long run, and less likely to turn to another provider after a few months of un-anticipated additional data costs. “All told, the state of flux the channel finds itself in is the perfect time for introspection and future planning,” commented McKeever. “The modern requirement for high levels of end user management make it the right time to assess the functionality of existing billing platforms and whether they can help businesses grow through the next decade.”

Returning to the point of market differentiation, McKeever noted that the billing experience is often overlooked when organisations explore ways to set themselves apart from their contenders. But with the right feature set, billing can be used to a reseller’s advantage, enriching the customer experience and differentiating the reseller through elements such as portal power, advanced reporting to maximise revenue, automation and critical self-serve functions.

“Billing can be the make or break of a telecoms company,” added McKeever. “Get your margins and service right and you’ll have happy customers for decades. Get it wrong and churn rates get too high and customer service teams get swamped by angry customers, leading to more discounts and gestures and promotions that further erode profitability.

“With the correct billing software resellers can be confident that their billing platform not only enhances customers’ perception of their operation, but also helps keep their team on track for each and every bill run. In turn, this means that margins are maximised and any loss making services get resolved before it’s too late.”        

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