It’s time to take the lumbering old elephant out of the billing room and replace with an altogether different animal writes Alan Coleman, CEO, Brite:Bill

As digital transformation begins to have an impact on traditional businesses and the consumption habits of customers, new approaches to customer experience are emerging.

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 choice and flexibility 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 service provider. 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, and not be restricted to a plan or package.

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 CSPs bill their customers. Much of the good work in making services and bundles attractive to users and in improving their customer experience by serving customers consistently across multiple channels and platforms, is wasted when the bill arrives: a cold, stark, impersonal demand for cash.

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. CSPs can even turn the traditional demand for cash into an up-sell or cross-sell opportunity if they make the right proposition with the right approach.

Emotional connection

The enabler of this is presenting billing communications with the right tone and information that is appealing to each customer. This provides the opportunity to create an emotional connection between the CSP and the customer.

The potential is there for CSPs to strengthen their relationships with customers by identifying the stages in individual customer’s journey and selecting specific plays or highly targeted treatments to address customers in specific situations. Areas such as on-boarding, the critical first 90 days of a customer’s engagement and the first bill, or customers coming to the end of their contract, can be addressed with greater richness through personalization and relevancy.  Add to that the continued provision of rich communications that clearly 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 service provider 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 CSPs 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 signalled 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.

Original version of this article appeared on Vanilla Plus