We were recently asked exactly what a modern billing provider should be catering for by leading channel publication, Comms Business. Here’s what our Managing Director, Vincent Disneur, had to say.
One bill for all services
The convergence trend has matured to the point where there’s now a general expectation and desire from end users to deal with a single supplier for all ICT services, with a corresponding reluctance from enterprising CPs to leave anything on the table in a new business deal. Providing customers with a complete range of ICT services boosts revenues, locks out competitors and keeps customers sticky. As a result, the scope of products and services that a billing platform will need to manage has widened considerably.
Providing one bill for all services is essential for customer satisfaction. Coherent, consolidated billing is a major selling point for customers and can be as important to them as cost savings, so it’s important for a billing platform to process rateable comms services in addition to a wide range of other services. This might include service charges, subscriptions, and other types of contractual arrangements (software licenses for example) that the CP provides. The billing platform needs to be versatile and adaptable enough to deal with whatever a CP might throw at it and also offer appropriate categorisation of these products.
Usability, accessibility, and cloud
Billing really shouldn’t be any more complicated than it needs to be, which is why a billing platform should be intuitive with flexible accessibility options and true cloud deployment. More advanced platforms can offer accessibility via the web (subject to security restrictions) and provide an intuitive and robust user journey. We’ve worked hard to make this the case with our aBILLity software and have even taken a step beyond by introducing a mobile app to complement the platform. It’s an industry first, providing a high-level overview of billing activities which is ideal for upper management and business owners that want to keep tabs on how their billing is progressing.
When it comes to hosting, almost all CPs these days prefer the vendor to host the billing software. It’s not hard to understand why, the benefits are numerous and well known, but it’s important to remember that not all hosting environments are created equal. A billing provider should guarantee high availability and be able to demonstrate robust processes for disaster recovery, data security, capacity management, backups, and so on. Data should also be held in a location that complies with whatever regulations the CP is subject to and should always be protected by geographic redundancies.
Service provisioning is another area where a billing platform can add value by automating the sales order process and integrating supplier systems. Integration of billing and provisioning systems offers some exciting possibilities in this regard, especially as we move from WLR3 to a more diverse market for digital communications.
Ideally, a billing platform should enable a CP to manage billing and provisioning from a single pane of glass. This can allow CPs to streamline their provisioning activities, saving time and reducing error margins by eliminating the need to rekey information between systems. This will ensure that services are correctly ordered for the customer as well as making sure that nothing gets missed when it comes to billing these services once they go live.
Process and practice
It’s not just what a billing platform/vendor does that’s important, it’s also how it does it. From a compliance point of view, the billing process presents a lot of risks for CPs. Accuracy is one such area, so it’s advisable for a billing vendor to comply with Ofcom’s Total Metering and Billing Systems (TMBS) standard.
A billing platform is also likely to hold customers’ personally identifiable information (PII), payment details, call destinations and more. Any sensitive PII should be managed securely by the billing platform and encrypted where appropriate. It’s just as vital that the vendor behind the platform is operating in accordance with best practice for information security. Compliance with the internationally recognised ISO27001 Information Security Management standard is a good indicator that the vendor has implemented robust security measures.
Interested to find out more about how a modern billing provider can help? Get in touch with Union Street today.