Billing errors impact customer trust and significantly affect customer satisfaction levels. This was illustrated by a recent survey of 2,000 energy utility customers in the UK undertaken by Consumer Intelligence. Their research found that 30% of those polled had discovered an error on their energy bill. 28% had been overcharged in 2012 by an average of £121, leading customers to conclude that utilities are overpricing on purpose—which the accused utilities vehemently deny—but customer confidence is eroded to an all-time low. This situation is only set to get worse as customers are moved to electronic invoicing.
The widespread use of virtualized on-demand cloud services (SaaS, PaaS and IaaS), the fast growth of e-commerce, streaming media services, M2M and mobile solutions are fast changing the whole billing environment—integrating it directly with the customer’s service experience. Traditional billing systems will not be able to ‘get there from here’ unless they undergo a radical transformation that integrates them with the online service delivery processes.
In retail, B2B relationships service providers need to manage recurring billing, provide scalable services and deliver the analytics (such as MRR, churn, customer usage and profitability) that feed into customers’ business processes. Online service providers now expect full-service billing providers to handle metering, rating, collection, customer care and logistics management. In order to meet these requirements, billing providers must address fulfillment solutions, customer information management (CIM) and policy management.
A recent review of the SURE! (SUbscription REvolution) billing platform from the Indian company Magnaquest provided insight into this new world of service and license consumption-based billing. The review assessed the quality of billing services from the point of view of increased customer satisfaction. This was linked to software licensing delivery models, multi-level billing capabilities, customisation and business process integration in order to provide an end-to-end managed service. Looking to expand its presence in Europe, the company has most of its 170 customers spread across 30 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and works with a range of technology partners including virtualization providers like VMware, Cisco and Oracle; cloud services like Azure and Cloud.com; CRM providers like SFDC and system integrators like Wipro and Dimension Data.
Billing is no longer a bolt-on afterthought; it integrates directly with the business process planning. SURE!, with a wide range of web service APIs, can be pre-slotted into new virtual services as well as integrated with legacy business processes. A case study of SURE! deployment at a high-performance cloud infrastructure and big data analytics company illustrates the range of services delivered. For a multi-tenant cloud service provider, flexible pricing plan management that handles any combination of CPU usage, bandwidth, storage and software license usage is key. This is supported by Magnaquest’s service portal, payment gateway and FAS (Financial Accounting Standards) integration. A single screen provides 360 degree views of all data, and the integration capabilities support the systematic migration and consolidation of all billing related data and processes.
Inability to bill correctly and provide useful real-time billing data to customers will drive customers to competitors. Inability to integrate with and support service providers’ business processes will induce service providers to look for a new billing solutions provider. This opens interesting new business opportunities for billing platform developers able to address both sets of requirements.