Telecoms & ICT Billing Series: 8 Crucial Features to Consider When Choosing a Billing Solution
How to add value to billing and improve CX
A billing solution is such a fundamental part of running a successful telecoms business, that it’s often taken for granted. However, it’s importance shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, in addition to its core function of invoice generation, this software performs a number of other key tasks within a telecoms business, including monitoring cash flow, ensuring proactive contract renewal and, in some cases, maintaining regulatory compliance. Most importantly, the right billing platform should provide everything you need to unlock the highest levels of profitability.
Today’s most efficient and effective billing solutions provide behind-the-scenes insights into the financial workings of your company. This provides you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your cash flow, sales strategy, product portfolio and market proposition.
What’s more, in a world where customer experience (CX) is becoming the most important differentiator for any brand, robust and accurate billing can also help you to earn the respect of your customers. Remember, organisations that invest in CX strategies for the entire customer journey can improve satisfaction levels by up to 20%.
After all, it’s much easier to trust a company that consistently delivers timely, accurate, and professional-looking invoices. The question is, how do businesses find a billing platform that effectively manages all these requirements? To help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together a list of just some of the most important features any brand should look for when selecting a billing platform.
1. Simplicity and Ease of Use
Looking for a billing system that’s easy for your team to adopt and access should be near the top of your priorities. Even the world’s most sophisticated billing platform won’t have a positive impact on your bottom line if your team doesn’t know how to use it.
Beyond the platform itself, the support and training resources that back the platform should always be factored into the tender process. Will they be sufficient to help your team get the best results from the software?
Consider the needs of your billing team. For instance, selecting a service that offers secure access through a web browser means that your employees won’t have to download or install the software before they can begin working with billing platform.
Additionally, given that 37% of the American workforce has already spent some time working remotely, it’s safe to say that the flexible working trend is increasing. If you employ remote working staff or have multiple offices, it might be a good idea to choose a billing system that your staff can safely access from anywhere.
2. Enhanced Data Security
While accessibility for your workers is an important feature to look for in your new billing platform, you also want to ensure that everyone has the right level of access to ensure better security for your system. For instance, granular user permissions can be essential in the billing world when it comes to making sure your people get only the information they need most.
Now that the GDPR deadline is just around the corner, resellers and service providers are under significant pressure to ensure that data is collected and stored according to the guidelines of strict protection regulations. Make sure you choose a vendor that can help you to meet these new demands.
Additionally, it’s worth looking at whether the billing solution you’re considering comes from a company that has universally recognised credentials, such as the “ISO 270001” certification for information security management. If these credentials are present, you should be able to rest assured that your billing platform manages sensitive data properly.
3. Reliable Reporting and Revenue Assurance
One of the most important functions of any effective billing platform is the ability to scrutinise your revenue streams. With sophisticated revenue assurance and reporting functionality, you can quickly identify areas of revenue leakage and misbilling.
Ideally you will want a system that can help automate your revenue assurance tasks. Reconciliation is one such task, the very necessary but equally very time-consuming process of comparing what you’re billing your customers to what you’ve been charged by your suppliers. In an ideal world, these would always match perfectly but, in reality, they often don’t. Having a platform that can automate this process ensures that you’re neither undercharging your customers or being overcharged by suppliers.
This is just one example of the potential for revenue leakage. Another would be checking dial codes and destinations to ensure everything has been charged at the correct rates. A billing platform that can perform these checks automatically will help to ensure that you are consistently operating as profitably as possible whilst reducing both the time required to complete these tasks and potential for human error.
Aside from revenue assurance, you’ll also want to be able to conduct ongoing and in-depth reporting on your revenue streams to identify areas of your product portfolio that are the most profitable and those that are underperforming. This will in turn help you to refine your sales strategy and be more proactive when improving your cash flow and revenue choices.
4. Flexibility and Scalability
No matter how small your company might be when it first gets started, the mark of a great business is its ability to scale. In today’s digitally-focused world, you could find your growth comes at a more rapid pace, thanks to agile working practices and cloud computing.
Your billing platform should figure into your strategy for long-term growth. Choose one that will be able to adapt as you introduce new products and services into your portfolio and that will scale effectively according to the needs of your customers and your business. While there are many billing platforms out there that claim to be scalable, many can only accomplish so much before they begin to struggle. A billing platform’s processing power, or lack of, will become apparent as your business grows and it is required to manage increasing amounts of call data records (CDRs) and generate a corresponding amount of invoices.
5. Back-end Integration
In today’s digitally-transforming world, many companies would be wise to choose best of breed software packages that can work well together in the back office environment. Effective integration to create a single pane of glass solution which synchronises data across all software, can deliver huge increases in operational efficiency, accuracy and productivity.
With the right back-end integration strategy, you can ensure that everyone in your network remains as efficient and organised as possible. What’s more, your integration strategy can even make it easier for you to provide customised customer services because staff from sales, support and other departments can view billing data from applications such as a CRM platform or contact centre system.
With this in mind, you should ideally be looking for a billing platform that can provide bi-directional integration with other software packages. If the billing platform features out of the box integration with certain software packages then that’s ideal but, if it doesn’t, you’ll probably need to work with the vendor of the billing software or a third-party integrator to develop the level of integration you’re hoping for.
In these situations, make sure to do your homework on the vendor. You’ll need to be satisfied that they can provide solid APIs that are backed with comprehensive resources. This should include documentation, sandbox environments and support that will assist your third-party integrator in developing integrations effectively.
6. Fraud Management
We’ve already addressed the concept of information security and privacy in an effective billing platform but, just as important as protecting sensitive data, is having a strategy in place for protecting and/or alerting your customers to instances of toll fraud. Your billing platform should be a key part of this strategy.
Toll fraud continues to be a serious threat to businesses across the World. As a provider of communication services, if one (or more) of your customers were to be hit by fraud, this could potentially become very costly for them and, potentially, for you as well. At the very least it’s likely to sour your relationship with that customer if not managed properly. The best way to give your customers peace of mind and protect your business at the same time is to invest in as many layers of fraud protection as possible.
Ideally, a billing system should be able to recognise and flag instances of fraud before they’re able to cause real, long-term damage. Your billing system should be able to check automatically for signs of fraud as you import customers’ data into it. Being able to detect occurrences of fraud early, before they become costlier, then proactively notifying your customer of the problem and advising them how to deal with it, puts you on the best possible footing for managing the situation and maintaining that customer’s good will.
Whatever you do, don’t just try to palm the issue of fraud security off on someone else in the supply chain. Today, everyone needs to work together to make the world a more secure, and crime-free place.
7. Intuitive Contract Management
Different types of resellers need different solutions from their billing system. For instance, a high-churn reseller needs to know instantly when a contract might be coming to an end, so they can work on getting it re-signed as soon as possible. A billing solution that provides contract management tools can be the key to keeping your cash flow steady all year round, by ensuring you stay connected to your most valuable customers.
Look for a system that allows you to enter all the right variable information into your contract from the outset and calculate how well that contract is expected to perform over its lifetime. This will help you to determine that you’re setting up competitive, but also profitable contracts with your customers. Additionally, it’s helpful to have a tool that automatically reports at the end of each month and shows you which contracts you need to renew.
8. Solutions for Dealer Commission
Finally, having a billing solution that allows you to access a new source of revenue through resellers and channel partners could be a great way to develop the revenue streams of your company. While many billing systems come with features for managing dealer commissions, it’s important to look for a solution that’s simple, efficient, and perfect for driving adoption.
A dealer commission service in your billing system could help you to automatically calculate dealer commissions so that partners have an opportunity to highlight personal targets and take advantage of new business opportunities. This is an excellent way to expand your reach into new markets.
There are a lot of different factors that go into choosing the best billing platform to manage your billing operations. The tips above are a great start but remember to also look for a billing software company that can provide you with long-term support and peace of mind too.
For instance, look for a platform that’s backed by online resources and educational solutions intended to help people use their systems more effectively. Added “extras” like effective training and guidance can help you to turn any billing strategy into a roadmap for greater revenue.