As the leading supplier of telecommunications billing solutions, we at Union Street Technologies are always looking to improve the services and products we offer to existing and potential new customers.
One of our biggest successes has been our bureau billing service. Introduced in 2012, it now provides billing to 40 clients, with a further five in the pipeline that will use the service following the successful implementation of our aBILLity billing platform. This amounts to just over ten per cent of our total customer base and proves its popularity and effectiveness among comms providers.
Its undoubted success has led us to appoint Steve Lale as Bureau Billing Team Manager. Steve comes to us with a wealth of experience having worked in the telecoms industry for over eight years, with the majority of that spent in the billing software arena.
For those comms providers without a dedicated billing manager, the attraction of a bureau billing service is obvious. Billing is an inherently complex process when you consider the numerous legal and practical technicalities involved. Employing an in-house billing manager can be expensive and those with the necessary experience can be hard to find. But without them the task of completing the bill run inevitably falls to someone who neither has the time nor the expertise to manage the process effectively.
Benefits of Bureau Billing
Union Street Technologies’ bureau billing service was created as a cost-effective solution, reducing the workload freeing staff to assert themselves in their original roles. It’s not only time that’s been saved. Many clients have also reported an increase in their profit margins since switching to our bureau billing service thanks to the knowledge and expertise of our bureau team and their commitment to best practices.
When choosing a billing platform the biggest question for most communication providers (CPs), besides of course which platform to choose, is the question of whether to opt for a self-managed or bureau option. Today almost all of the leading billing platforms in the communications industry are offered as either a self-managed solution or as a bureau service where billing is managed for the CP usually for a small percentage of that CP’s monthly revenue.
So how are CPs to decide which is the right option for them? Many CPs particularly those that are starting out may choose to buy services from a single supplier that offers billing services as part of the package. This is a simple and cost effective way to begin selling services and generating revenue without the added cost of implementing a billing platform on day one.
As a company grows however, the advantages of taking ownership of their billing operations by investing in a billing platform become more apparent. Whilst using a single supplier to provide all services and billing is convenient, it is rarely the most cost effective way to purchase wholesale services. By purchasing their own billing platform CPs gain the freedom to cherry pick the best services from multiple suppliers to create a more competitive and often more profitable portfolio of services that they can then offer to their customer base.
For customers such as these it’s easy to see the attraction of a bureau service. Telecoms billing is an inherently complex process with numerous legal and practical technicalities and therefore requires a highly skilled billing manager to oversee the process. Experienced billing managers can however be expensive to employ and difficult to find. From a purely economic stand point, by using a bureau service at this critical stage a CP can usually pay less for their billing than they would by recruiting an in-house billing manager.
With a bureau service a CP also has the benefit of being able to draw on the expertise of a whole team of billing experts as opposed to relying on just one person. Almost all bureau services will also be hosted, which keeps costs low and should provide disaster recovery benefits amongst many others.
The self-managed option does of course have advantages too. If a CP has staff with revenue assurance skills and expertise in telecoms billing then self-managed does provide more control. Most bureau services will also only operate within regular business hours, but with self-managed a CP can work on their bills at any time which can mean that bills are dispatched faster.
For CPs that choose self-managed it is vital to make sure that adequate training is available from the supplier of that billing platform to ensure staff have all the knowledge and support they need to conduct billing runs accurately and effectively. Union Street for example provide free of charge training workshops that educate our clients on not just the product but also on the best practices to deploy that will ensure profitability and professionalism.
Although choosing a bureau service is usually cheaper than employing a billing manager when companies have lower revenues, there will always be a point at which the door begins to swing the other way and once a CP’s revenue reaches a certain level it will become more cost effective to employ a billing manager as opposed to paying for a bureau service.
To decide which is right for your business you need to look at the ‘total cost of ownership’ and then decide where the break-even point is. Other considerations include the credibility and financial standing of the billing supplier. What can they offer in terms of data security, disaster recovery, margin analysis and other reporting options? Can the billing platform scale easily as your revenues grow? Finally it’s also worth noting if they are independent or part of a larger group with interests that may compete with your own.
Interested in Bureau Billing with Union Street? Contact us today.
Written by Gareth Pritchard, Marketing Manager at Union Street Technologies