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Bad bills kill great customer experiences

Why Charlie churned

Meet my brother-in-law, Charlie. He is a thirty something finance manager and a sports fanatic. He is your typical mobile subscriber. His iPhone is glued to his hand – much to the annoyance of his wife! He uses Whatsapp, facebook, skype and often shares the phone with his children (his kids are too young to have their own phones). Charlie is fairly tech savvy and he is price conscious. He will search online to get the best deals and and read reviews before a purchase – like most of us these days.

Charlie’s not happy!

For such a mild mannered guy, I’ve never seen him get so animated and annoyed as when he was relaying the story of how his service provider couldn’t explain the charges on his new mobile phone bill. He recently upgraded to the iPhone6, and had signed up for some new services, a sports package. All was great…until the first bill landed.

Charlie’s bill didn’t reflect the package price he signed up to and he couldn’t make head nor tail of the charges! What made matters worse was that even the operator’s customer services helpline couldn’t explain the bill breakdown. Yes, they had the details about the new package he signed up to, but they couldn’t explain the total amount due on Charlie’s bill.

Unsurprisingly, Charlie found it easy to buy his new phone and add the sports package. Even when he visited the store the staff there answered his questions and explained the price plan. Why then did the bill, from the same service provider that gave such a great customer experience, send such a complicated and confusing bill?

Confusion reigns

Knowing that I worked in mobile billing, Charlie felt that I could perhaps explain this madness. I could not. My guess was Charlie switched his plan and added new services in the middle of the provider’s bill run.

On a subsequent call to customer care team it was confirmed that yes, it was due to their billing system. So, as I suspected, it was a pro-rata situation that wasn’t communicated clearly on the bill.

Charlie’s experience is mirrored by a recent survey we conducted. Nearly 33 million mobile subscribers in the UK wanted clearer breakdowns of incurred charges and more personalised bills. And over six million subscribers complained that they simply don’t have the time or inclination to decipher the jargon-heavy bills sent by operators

Not a clean bill of health

Billing is a communication channel that has been neglected, often due to legacy systems which don’t have the capabilities to change old-fashioned bills. So, operators still send their subscribers poorly constructed, impersonal and often confusing demands for payment. This does not fit with the overall brand experience. So, what did Charlie do after this bad experience? He churned and switched to a new service provider!

Given the intense competition and high churn rates, service providers must focus on retention and building long-term loyalty to boost customer experience. The monthly billing interaction is paramount in shaping customer perception and brand loyalty. It is an inevitable part of the customer journey that cannot be neglected any longer.

Author: Orla Power, Head of Marketing, Brite:Bill