Today’s digital-savvy customers want personalized interaction when dealing with a business. Providing digital experiences that appeal to the customer emotionally is vital for the success of a business. As the billing process is an important customer touchpoint, digitally transforming the billing experience is essential to drive customer delight.
For service providers in the Connectedness industry, one of their key focus areas is to transform the billing experience to meet the needs of digital customers, thereby delivering much-needed differentiation and competitive advantage. However, there are various impediments to this.
The existing disjoint and disparate billing landscape impacts the service providers’ operational productivity and customer experience. Typically, the processes such as rating, billing, invoicing, and collections drive huge calls to the service providers’ contact center, leading to low customer satisfaction and high operational costs.
Factors causing service providers to maintain multiple, disparate, and disjoint billing applications are:
- Different lines of business – B2C, B2B, wholesale, consumer, retail etc.
- Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) – Different product/service portfolios.
- Launching complex product portfolios – Introduction of 5G, increase in digital offerings and thirst for service innovation.
- Multi-country presence – Serving different geographies.
The service providers ecosystem is very complex, and they face various challenges in implementing a unified and digitally transformed billing landscape. This involves dealing with legacy systems, complex migration steps, difficult integration with BSS, network and other modules and further optimization across the multi-country presence.
Service providers need to implement the right strategic levers to address these challenges and realize the real benefits of a unified and digitally transformed billing landscape.
Key strategic levers to digitally transform the service providers’ billing landscape
Bring disparate billing systems under one unified view
Most service providers have disparate and siloed billing platforms for each line of business which has been either set up historically or created through multiple M&As. Consolidating them to provide one unified view requires a thoughtful strategy implemented at the beginning of the project, thereby avoiding any expensive repercussions in the long run.
- Conduct discovery sessions to capture the requirements and create a solution blueprint.
- Ensure scalability of the product in the design phase. Balance the peak loads and operational loads during the rating and billing cycles using online insights.
- Architect the process design and IT design for bill-run generation and post billing management.
Drive synergies with innovative migration tools, cut-over strategy, and parallel runs
The cut-over strategy typically runs for various months due to “running invoices”, “treatment processes” and “collections processes”. Therefore, a single cut-off moment is often not feasible.
- Develop best-of-breed migration tools based on open-source frameworks. In addition to the standard ETL tools, use big-data and AI/ML models for better data quality and data mapping.
- Develop a data migration toolkit to migrate siloed data to a unified view, resolving any critical data issues in the process.
- Perform multiple cut-over strategies each month. Make sure the financial reports can continue consistently during migration, using a customized BI solution deployed across the old and new platforms.
- Enable parallel runs to allow a smooth transition and prevent errors. Capture a clear comparison between the old and new systems, with insights on deltas that can be corrected. Having the cut-over span across two financial periods lowers the risks.
Use standard integration patterns and embrace automation to ease BSS/digital/finance and network integrations
Typical COTS products primarily focus on rating and invoice generation. Service providers need to carry out complex integrations of the COTS application with their digital, BSS, finance, and network modules.
- Use 3GPP standards for network integration. Use TMF-APIs for BSS/OSS integrations such as TMF666 for the “billing account” and TMF677 for “usage consumption”.
- Drive end-to-end automation through the product catalog.
- Focus on getting core capabilities within the box (COTS application). Bring the core capabilities such as mediation, rating (offline and online), billing, collections, treatment, general ledger reporting within the COTS application. This can significantly reduce the number of integrations.
Create foundational and reusable building blocks to facilitate the highest re-usability of key functionalities
Simply consolidating multiple billing systems into one big system can complicate the operational process and impact its scalability. This can result in complex connections that are difficult to automate and scale.
Service providers need to go one step ahead and do rationalization, standardization, and optimization of their billing system to create reusable building blocks. This simplifies the process by managing functionalities in a convenient manner, creating reusable building blocks and improving the scalability.
- Build Lego blocks using process harmonization – Make sure that each step is designed to baseline the foundational elements.
- Design the reusable building blocks that can be applied to single/multiple product lines/segments.
Rate plan and portfolio optimization
In the current scenario, most service providers have a variety of rate plans for different destinations, complex bundle structures, no sunsetting of the existing portfolio’s line-ups and various models to offer discounts. An ideal target scenario should have a single set of rate plan to offer optimized pricing, clear line-up definitions and standardized models for discounts.
Billing cycle optimization
Most service providers have multiple billing cycles, advance billing and pro-rated changes, for which the invoice periods are spread throughout the month. An ideal target scenario should have a limited number of billing cycles where the monthly billing aligns to the arrears invoice without any pro-rated changes and rollover amounts, keeping the invoice clear.
Deploy a bill-run validation tool to improve the data quality and increase customer satisfaction by sending the correct invoices.
Build presentation layer using the invoice data to provide clear insights to the customers
- Focus on ‘Call Drivers’. Solve the highest operational pain points first. ‘Call Drivers’ can give good insights into what is wrong in the current legacy situation.
- Focus on presenting the necessary details that are relevant to the customer. Avoid unnecessary details. E.g., for an unlimited data bundle, we can avoid showing the data usage to the customer.
- Provide proactive notifications on high call/data usage to prevent customer surprises. Explain the deltas like the reason for a spike in the invoice compared to the previous month etc.
- Proactively advice on potential resolutions for a better customer experience.
Benefits achieved by a leading service provider in Europe by leveraging the key strategic levers detailed in this insight to transform their billing landscape
- Increased the NPS by 3X and enhanced the overall customer billing experience
- Improved the Mobile App rating from 3 to 4.7
- Achieved 35% reduction in OPEX costs for IT in the billing/rating domain
- 2X improvement in employee productivity in the billing operations through consolidation of the billing stacks and complete automation of the bill runs
- 30-40% improved efficiency in creating/adjusting new features based on well documented and re-usable building blocks across segments
Authors • Derrek Schutman- Senior Solution Architect, Delivery, Prodapt • Sumit Thakur – Senior Manager, Strategic Insights, Prodapt Derrek Schutman Solution Architect, Prodapt Consulting Derrek Schutman has broad experience in Telecommunications and has designed End-to-End solutions for various product lines and segments. His inputs are most valuable in implementing design patterns, API layering & demarcation and proposing a phased approach for larger transformation programs. He has led various End-to-End implementations as Enterprise – and Solution Architect, focusing on the strategic goals balanced with short-term value. Derrek is an enterprise architect – consulting at Prodapt, a two-decade-old consulting & managed services provider singularly focused on the Technology, Media, & Telecommunications (TMT) industry that helps clients transform their IT, products, operations, and networks to meet their strategic objectives. Prodapt’s business consultants enable DSPs on their transformation journey at several layers, including cloud, customer experience, business outcome focused initiatives, CapEx, and OpEx optimization programs. www.prodapt.com