Billing is the elephant in the room for your CX
As digital transformation begins to have an impact on traditional businesses and the consumption habits of customers, new approaches to customer experience are emerging, wrote Alan Coleman, chief executive of Brite:Bill.
Car makers that once sold vehicles as a large capital purchase are now looking at making cars available to customers on an as-a-service basis, charging fees per mile driven. There’s potential for associated services such as insurance or infotainment to be bundled into that per mile service charge and organisations of all types are exploring radically different business models that encompass greater flexibility and agility for the consumer.
The real game has changed from one of getting customers to buy a product or to pay for services, to one of providing the customer with the experience they want. Of course, that experience provision has to be profitable for the provider but consumers are becoming more powerful as it becomes easier to switch providers and simpler to break down the constraints of bundled propositions and take only the pieces they want.
Telecoms is no different. The traditional service lines of device financing, line rental, voice minutes and packages of data and SMS are becoming less and less relevant as customers focus on the experiences they are receiving from their operator. The market is starting to see a more complex, yet also more appealing, billing and charging landscape emerge.
This incorporates multi-party business models which see content bundled with connectivity, sponsorship of connectivity by content providers and greater possibility for customers to pay for only what they use, not a package that operator marketing departments think they want.
The bearer of bad news
This new phase of customer interaction is exciting and full of promise but there’s a massive disconnect between the attractive new plans, products and business models and the means by which operators bill their customers. In the digital world everything is agile and flexible and gives the appearance of being tailored to the individual’s needs but this grinds to a clanking halt when users are presented with the plain old phone bill; a statement of consumption that traditionally is the bearer of bad news in the form of unexpected overspend.
Much of operators’ good work in making their services and bundles attractive to users and in improving their customer experience by serving customers consistently across multiple channels and platforms is wasted by this cold, hard, black and white demand for cash with little explanation.
The bill is the debt collector of the digital world and no one wants one of those on their doorstep. Instead, a friendly approach that details your personal consumption and, from knowledge of your actual usage, makes suggestions of what services you need and don’t need or what you might like in future is a far more welcome visitor to your screen or letter box. Operators are even able to turn the traditional demand for cash into an up-sell or cross-sell opportunity if they make the right proposition with the right approach.
The enabler of this is presenting the bill with the tone and information that is appealing to each customer. This provides the opportunity to create an emotional connection between the operator and the customer.
Research from Temkin Group has found that emotion is the component of customer experience that has the greatest impact on loyalty and saying the right thing at the right time evokes the right emotion.
Our product, Brite:Now’s machine learning measures and quantifies emotion in order to enable operators to respond and engage in the best way. Brite:Now connects customer emotion with terabytes of CRM and operational data to develop a deep understanding that enables truly personalised communications with each and every customer.
The system becomes the conversation layer to frame what the operator will say when it delivers the next logical offering as part of a more conversational interaction with each customer. It does not require operators to replace existing, full suite multi-channel campaign management systems but Brite:Now co-exists in the marketing ecosystem, sitting on top of the operator’s data hub to support and enhance communications for improved campaign orchestration.
Similarly, Brite:Now does not conflict with operators’ installed billing systems. These long-established BSS are fit for purpose for counting units of consumption, gathered from call detail records, and then reporting that but the integrated revenue and customer management (IRCM) function is fragmented and typically involves several operator suppliers. A recent report from Gartner stated that this fragmentation is due to vendors offering few reasons for operators to single source an IRCM suite.
Gartner has also found that, with operators selecting on average just 5.6 out of 14 modules of a single vendor’s solution, multi-vendor IRCM is set to continue. This multi-vendor environment doesn’t matter because Brite:Bill effectively sits on top of these systems accessing their data to create the emotional billing insights and communications that are needed to bring this enhanced billing experience into reality.
Imagine the potential for an operator to strengthen its relationship with its customers by identifying the stages in the customer’s journey and selecting specific plays or highly targeted treatments to address customers in specific situations. Areas such as onboarding, the critical first 90 days of a customer’s engagement and the end of the contract can all be addressed with greater richness and warmth.
Add to that the continued provision of rich billing communications that attractively explain the user’s consumption in granular detail. Consumers value this highly because they can see accurately where their money has been spent. When bills are confusing and charges are unclear, customers get annoyed; worse still they may simply leave their operator altogether. Churn remains an expensive problem for operators, as is staffing call centres where up to 40% of calls are billing related.
Enhanced billing communications enable operators to converse with customers, giving the impression they know and care about them. They can unlock customer preferences by sending the most relevant content to them, framed in the right tone of voice based on their signaled emotions. All of this enables operators to align customer experience metrics with operational and financial key performance indicators (KPIs), thereby adding to the bottom line at the same time as improving the customer experience.
Put simply, it’s time to take the lumbering old elephant out of the billing room and replace with an altogether different animal that is fast on its feet and sensitive to the emotions of customers.
The author of this blog is Alan Coleman, chief executive of Brite:Bill.
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