The exponential growth of media streaming, use of VoIP to replace extensive fixed lines, and disruptive network technologies such as 5G and LTE has been a game changer for Telcos. Broadband, content, and wireless services are converging, and the big tech players – FAANG and, wider afield, Alibaba and Baidu – are muscling in on what used to be safe territory.
The statistics underline the profound changes in the market: over half of all Facebook users access their accounts wirelessly using their smartphones; the number of payments made using mobile has doubled over the last four years; and Skype accounts for more than a third of international voice minutes.
Digital is both a threat and an opportunity to Telcos. It threatens to further commoditize their core voice income, but has the benefit of enabling new, high-growth and high-margin revenue streams. Users of digital services spend more, stay longer, and are quick to buy new products.
Regulations is another area where Telcos need to stay alert. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in May of this year, is relevant for any Telco that offers services to EU residents, and has made the headlines because of the eye-watering fines (up to 20 million or 4% of global turnover, whichever is higher) that can be levied if customer data is lost, stolen, or compromised. Similar regulations for the US market are in the pipeline, meaning Telcos need to have robust processes for the collection and management of any customer data.
In short: change isn’t an option for Telcos, it’s an imperative.
How a Modern Billing Engine Helps Telcos Address the Future
Telcos are, in part, hampered from implementing change by their dependence on outdated billing systems that are expensive to run, unstable, and inflexible.
Billing is a primary business process for Telcos, meaning best-in-class billing systems have an important role in helping change a Telco’s business model by protecting and increasing revenue, improving customer experience, and reducing operational costs.
Best-In-Class Telco Billing Systems Address the Problems that Stifle Revenue Growth
Telcos are changing their product and market mix by facilitating the delivery of Over-The-Top products (or entering the market themselves), extending their network footprint to improve geographic penetration, and partnering to launch new digital products. Antiquated billing systems can’t cope with this level of change, whereas modern billing engines can be customized to meet the needs of different products or markets, and provide flexible pricing based on usage or tiered rates, for example.
They’re also paying greater attention to their current customer base. Customer churn is estimated to be between 5% and 30% for post-paid Telco customers, and if we assume the average operator spends 15% of revenue on acquisition, high attrition rates are an obvious revenue killer. Billing errors – over or undercharging, for example – are one of the main sources of complaints, unsurprising if the billing system struggles to understand the customer’s product or usage levels.
Best-in-class Telco billing systems also provide valuable insight of customer behavior, identifying pain points which could lead to the loss of high-value subscribers, and spotting opportunities for targeted upsell and cross-sell campaigns that will increase revenue per customer.
System Integration and Streamlining Processes Helps Reduce Costs
Using different systems for marketing, sales, operations, and management is error prone and time consuming for staff, problems that modern billing systems address by tightly integrating core business processes such as quote-to-contract, invoicing, payment collection, and customer support. This not only removes manual handoffs between teams but provides front and back office teams with a single view of all customer activity, meaning any customer contact can be framed in the wider context of all their dealings with the Telco. There’s little point in an enthusiastic sales exec promoting a new service while the customer is suffering a service outage; yet that insight is rarely available in older billing engines.
Modern platforms are also able to manage data privacy and security requirements that lie at the heart of data protection regulations, and detect fraudulent activities, internal or external, that could undo all the hard work being done to increase or protect revenue. They can also easily integrate with other applications such as those used for electronic payments, accounting, CRM, or for billing traditional voice services.
Finally, for Telcos concerned that moving to a new billing platform will be time-consuming and prohibitively expensive, best-in-class products can be deployed quickly, thereby minimizing downtime, and use an array of tools to make sure there’s no data loss. They’re also easy to use, reducing the time required for staff training.
Telcos must act on multiple fronts to stave off the threat from new competitors in the changing digital landscape. Billing improvements is only one of the changes needed, but an important one nevertheless. A best-in-class Telco billing system makes it much easier to launch and support new products, protect existing revenue streams, and reduce operational costs.