CSPs still missing out on billing communications blackspot finds BriteBill survey
Although only 40% of communications service provider (CSP) customers look at their bills regularly this still presents millions of customers for most providers and this channel of communication is not being maximised, writes George Malim. Billing communications remain a neglected channel according to a recent survey of 40 CSPs across EMEA, North America and Asia conducted by Omnisperience on behalf of BriteBill.
The neglect can be explained by the multiple pressures facing CSPs as they digitally transform and invest in virtualised and 5G networks. However, the survey reveals that while CSPs focus on hyper competition and network upgrades they’re not deploying relatively low cost solutions to make the most of the bill as a communications method to improve the customer experience and foster loyalty.
The study found that 63% of CSPs see their greatest challenge in the next 24 months as competing with non-traditional rivals, such as over-the-top (OTT) providers. To combat these, 88% of CSPs plan to differentiate by providing a better customer experience, while 90% plan to compete by developing new products.
“We see operators spending tens of millions of dollars on marketing but 40% of users read their bill each month,” said Becky Byrne, the head of product management at BriteBill. “This means there’s a great opportunity to translate the demand for payment into a communications device with the customer.”
Report author, Teresa Cottam, the chief analyst at Omnisperience, added: “As an industry, we’re quite good at taking money from people but to capture the maximum digital transformation benefits and achieve full return on investment, service providers need to harness and capitalise on both operational and customer engagement innovations. Service providers are beginning to realise that by focusing resources on customer experience blackspots such as on boarding processes and billing, they can make a more immediate impact for often modest levels of investment.”
However, the survey found that only 23% of CSPs currently feel their bills are a strategic asset to their business with three-quarters saying that their bills are not evolving in line with their business. As service portfolios become more complex and customers buy third party content through their bills, the bill is set to become of increasing value to consumer trying to understand their consumption and the associated costs. In addition, in the enterprise market, there is the need to separate personal and business use for tax reasons. Tools to manage these services and apportion expenses are therefore required.
The survey found that CSPs are focusing on improvement in the form of increased automation, which was chosen by 100% of respondents, improved clarity and advice for customers, which was selected by 75% of respondents and personalising information and offers, which was selected by 38% of respondents.
“Service providers told us that making bills more intuitive is a necessity, with 95% believing it would significantly reduce calls to care from frustrated customers,” said Cottam. “As they bring new products to market, service providers are challenged to clearly communicate these services and their value. Failing to do this puts them at risk of feeling the sting in the tail of their own innovation.”
New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots have been identified as tools by which CSPs will improve the billing experience. 50% of respondents said they intended to deploy AI to improve the customer experience in their call centres and reduce call waiting times. However, Cottam warned that these technologies alone do not present a solution to the billing communications problem.
“Billing enquiries tend to be too complex for today’s AI to deal with,” she added. “It’s therefore essential that service providers tackle the root cause of the problem in the shape of unclear bills.”
Byrne added that in the rush to transform their businesses CSPs have overlooked the bill’s role as a critical customer touchpoint. “Improving and innovating their customers’ billing experiences is one of the most tangible ways service providers can communicate the benefits of digital transformation and innovation,” she said. “This in turn transforms bills from dull financial statements into strategic customer engagement tools.”