Kirill Rechter, CEO of LogNet Billing, says billing is more strategic for telecom operators and can be a strong business driver – contributing for the achievement of corporate objectives, such as enhancing the customer experience or expanding service offerings.
Today, global telecom operators are considering billing as an integral part of the overall customer experience. This is unlike a decade ago, and before, when billing was considered just a functional process for calculating usage and preparing invoices.
McKinsey principal Kevin Neher in an article published in March 2016 said that companies investing to improve the customer experience must be clearer about what it is actually worth and exactly how the improvements will generate value.
Proper billing processes – including service ordering, provisioning and delivery – can assist a telco to develop competitive advantages and strengthen its brand. BSS systems and workflows are part of digital service provider concept that most telcos are currently adapting for which billing plays a central role.
Modern billing practices
According to Rechter, modern billing practices give telcos a holistic view of their billing operations and directly control their business processes. For instance, the availability of modern online and mobile channels enables a telco to leverage its billing processes to sell more and improve the customer experience. At the same time, self-configurable alerts from the billing system can help customers control their costs, also contributing to an improved customer experience.
“Our MaxBill solution contains all the necessary elements to contribute to this – real-time analytics and omni-channel experience along with an open API cloud-ready architecture,” Rechter explained.
He also highlighted that thecompany’s MaxBill solution has been available since 1996 and is enabling the billing operations of communications, TV, content, utilities, financial and transportation service providers.
Why billing is a top priority
Competition in telecom markets has caused the commoditization of most communication services and their prices have dropped significantly. This has forced telcos to look for new sources of revenue, often outside traditional communications services.
For instance, many telcos offer their business customers a range of network and IT management and security services. As an example, billing is an essential element of the new NFV service initiatives of telcos around the world. Most telcos are getting ready to launch these new virtual services targeted at their business customers and are exploring different business models for these services, such as try-and-buy, pay-as-you-go and other subscription-based pricing. A telco’s billing infrastructure must be able to support dynamic configuration and provisioning requests in real-time to enable NFV architectures and service offerings to deliver profits.
Telcos are also serving as sales channelsfor third party vendors selling products to both business and residential customers. For this to be successful, a telco must have the billing infrastructure to integrate with partner networks to orchestrate service fulfilment processes and constantly reconcile accounts based on complex multi-layered agreements.
In terms of customer-facing functionality, the same level of sophistication for billing processes is expected from customers regardless of the size of the telco or its market segment. This means that customers are expecting modern billing processes from both their incumbent landline provider as well as their new entrant IPTV service provider.
“However, it is important to point out that large volumes of data will require advanced tools and performance management. Examples of such advanced tools included automatic forecasting and simulations, smart billing sensibility checks and efficient handling of incoming customer requests,” Rechter said.
The size of a telco’s operation impacts the performance of the billing system in terms of scalability, number of users and complexity of workflows. Larger operations require more automation for exception handlings and validation and verification capabilities.
Customers are expecting efficient billing processes with all the necessary information readily accessible. The availability for multi-channel, self-service functionality is also something customers expect their communication service providers to make available.
Service providers that succeed with this can leverage these modern billing processes to develop loyal customers. The alternative can easily contribute to customer churn. A key to the success of this is providing customers with a digital user experience that provides the framework for customers to independently update account information, purchase services, access billing information and get technical assistance with the need to speak with a service representative.
Review of billing processes
Rechter said monitoring and reviewing of billing processes is an ongoing activity for all telcos. Since billing serves multiple business units across a telco’s organization, the review and continuous improvements to billing processes must be a joint effort of the billing department, product managers, marketing managers and the CFO.
Best practices and corresponding KPIs have to be an integral part of defining all billing and other BSS process.
“We position our telco customers with the ability to constantly improve their billing processes. Our MaxBill system includes a configurable workflow engine with a library of best practice business processes. With this, our telco customers can make ongoing improvements to their billing processes independently and at any time,” Rechter said.
How to select a billing system and billing vendor
A billing system and the processes it supports and the customer-facing capabilities that it enables must be directly linked to the strategic business objectives of the telco, including revenue generation and overall profits.
Because billing is an essential part of achieving a service provider’s objectives, such as entering a new service market, reducing churn and improving customer experience, billing system and processes should have the ability to quickly and independently configure business processes. Cloud and hybrid architectures as well multi-play capabilities and experiences are essential components of a telco’s billing strategy for enhancing customer experience.