This week, marketing manager at Union Street, Gareth Pritchard, took some time out to speak to Anthony Savvas of UC Today.
It was a great chat on all things billing.
Read the full article here, or, to read the original, visit the UC Today article here.
Making Communications Billing Pay – An Interview with Union Street
With the communications market evolving, it’s never been more important for resellers and service providers to get their billing right, and to potentially make extra margins from it, says telecoms billing technology specialist Union Street Technologies.
The company provides systems to the comms industry that help to make sure that resellers not only get paid, but also don’t lose cash. In fact, it is now trumpeting the opportunities that are available to them to boost profitability in the billing process.
As a starter though, good billing protocols are key to making sure resellers are on steady ground with their billing.
“Implementing robust revenue assurance protocols before and after each bill run can make a big difference to the bottom line,” says Gareth Pritchard, Marketing Manager for Union Street. “And end customer rate tables should be regularly checked and updated.
He adds: “Import and process call detail records (CDRs) or service detail records (SDRs) as soon as they are available. And reconcile all charges and investigate any rejects (charges that are not automatically connected to a customer account) to ensure they’re invoiced to the correct customer.
“In addition, checks should also be performed to ensure that buy prices are in accordance with the tariff agreed with the carrier. Assuming the carrier always gets it right can be a costly mistake,” says Pritchard
These sound like basics, and they are, but without a comprehensive automated platform to help resellers tally up charges as they grow their business, billing can become one big black hole for the bottom line.
Pritchard says that because telecoms regulator Ofcom (and other regulatory bodies) is mandated to protect consumers, it prioritises their interests above those of communication providers in the service space, and in many ways this is politically understandable.
After all, if consumers use services and discover they are being substantially over-charged for them, that makes bigger headlines. Resellers of services to businesses can be caught out this way, often being obligated to comply with legislation that is predominantly intended for the consumer space, but which may not be so easily implemented in the channel, where supply chains are usually more complex.
Therefore, resellers need a holistic view of customer usage, to make sure correct charges are being levied on customers and appropriate service bars are put in place to prevent users running up charges they are not expecting.
Pritchard says: “Resellers have to use a proper billing platform once they get to a certain size. But just using it for rateable communications services is not a wise step when most will provide the tools to bill all services through it.”
Consolidating all billing into a single system is a key way to spot and stop revenue leakage. “We find that many resellers use their billing platform to manage rateable charges but use accounting software to bill fixed recurring charges,” says Pritchard.
This method is often intended as a cost saving exercise but, ironically, it’s usually a false economy. As a customer base grows it becomes harder to reconcile supplier charges with what is being billed to customers without a single automated billing platform to manage the process.
“Over time, increasing amounts of revenue can slip through the cracks,” warns Pritchard. “Consolidating billing for all services makes it far easier to ensure nothing is missed. It also means one bill for all services for the customer, and makes it far easier to assess the overall profitability of each customer account.”
Union Street is also keen to promote the opportunity for cost savings in mobile data that can be identified with its billing software. It says less than 2 per cent of customers actually need an unlimited mobile data bundle, as most would never go over the fixed amounts of data usually on offer.
However, the majority of customers insist on an unlimited data bundle, as they see it as a way of “avoiding hassle”, says Pritchard. “If the customer wants an unlimited data plan, then by all means, provide that service for them. But there’s nothing to stop a reseller from provisioning them onto shared or minimal data bundles from a supplier, safe in the knowledge that most users will never come close to using that much data. By doing this you could increase mobile margin considerably.
“Obviously there’s the risk that if a customer suddenly uses a huge amount of data then the reseller will be liable for the cost of any overage. But, overall, this is a good way of boosting profitability into your billing, providing you have a decent billing platform to mitigate risk by closely monitoring customer usage”.