BY SEAN GALLAGHER, SUNDAY INDO BUSINESS ON MARCH 13, 2016
Alan Coleman turned his frustration over confusing bills into a global software firm. He tells Sean Gallagher how he managed that miracle.If you have ever received a bill from your mobile-phone provider or utility company which you didn’t fully understand, then this week’s story will help make you feel like you are not alone.
In fact, according to Alan Coleman, co-founder and CEO of Brite:Bill, some 40pc of people who receive such bills end up calling their provider to seek clarification on some aspect of it.
Set up in 2010, along with co-founder Jim Hannon, Brite:Bill already employs more than 90 staff and has an annual turnover of over €12m. Fifty of their staff are based in Dublin while the remainder are spread across the company’s offices in London, Madrid, Toronto, Kansas and San Francisco.
“We develop software that helps our client companies improve their billing communications with their customers,” Alan tells me as he welcomes me to Brite:Bill’s contemporary new offices on Dublin’s Grand Canal Street.
“Bills have traditionally been seen as static, cold notifications or demands for payments. However, using our specifically designed software – and operating across all platforms of communication including printed bills, online and mobile – companies can now transform the way they present and manage their billing so as to make these communications with their customers more positive, engaging and customer-centric.”
The company uses the latest in analytics-based technology to create bills that are easy for customers to understand and which they will pay without the need to call the service provider’s helpline or customer-contact centre.
“In the US, it costs a company $10 every time a customer calls their helpline, so it makes absolute sense to prevent this type of needless activity,” Alan explains.
In only five years, the company has built up an impressive list of national customers. Most are well-known names in the telecoms sector such as Eir, Virgin and Vodafone. However, 90pc of revenues now come from exports to large international clients such as Tele2, in the Netherlands, T-Mobile in Germany, Rogers in Canada and Sprint in the US.
“Currently, there are more than 25 million individual bills, worth in excess of $5bn, processed every month around the world on the Brite: Bill platform,” says Alan proudly.
“We are also due to sign our largest ever customer in the US in the near future and this will double the number of bills being processed to over 50 million – or $10bn per month,” he adds.
Pulling out some samples of bills, Alan explains how his company’s software can design the bill so that it explains to the customers anything that is non-standard.
“The idea is to get this information in front of the customer so that they understand it before they become frustrated with an aspect of the bill that they don’t understand – triggering a call to the service provider’s contact centre,” he explains.
For example, a customer might have signed up for a new mobile-phone package at €39.99 per month – but when they receive their first bill, they discover to their frustration and annoyance that the bill is for €59.99.
Instead of having to ring the contact centre for an explanation, the Brite:Bill platform picks up the variance and explains to the customer that, as they signed up in the middle of a month, the bill relates to a six-week period rather than a month – and reassures customers that their bill will return to the standard fee, as agreed, in their next bill.
Customers often struggle, too, where companies use different names for the products they sell compared to what actually appears on their bills.
“Such inconsistency can lead to confusion among customers,” he explains. “If a person orders a family fibre package for their home but later receives a bill that refers to a charge for a 50mb broadband and landline offering, they struggle to connect this to what they actually ordered because the provider has not made mention of either family or fibre in their communication.
“The tendency is again for the customer to ring the company’s helpline for clarification, leading to added frustration on the part of the customer and added cost for the service company.
“The large US firm with whom we hope to start working with shortly spends over a half-a-billion dollars every year answering queries about their bills. Our software will help drive that down,” insists Alan.