Not for distributi on or reproducti on. Volume 11, Issue 9
Billing Still Matters: Driving
Premium Customer
Experiences through
Intelligent Digital Services5
Not for distribution or reproduction.
By Ian Roy
The proliferation and ever-expanding capabilities of smart
devices are slowly but surely neutralizing traditional
communications services, evident by the steady decline
of voice and messaging revenues. This reality drives many
to regard telco billing, which was specifically created to
support these declining services, as a cost center to be
So does billing still matter? I believe the answer is a
qualified “yes,” provided billing quickly evolves to a higher
state. This evolution is critical for billing to remain relevant
and, more importantly, provide an opportunity for service
providers themselves to remain relevant. As our connected
world shifts away from network-based services to IP
everything, everyone along the communications and media
value chain is racing to establish dominant positions in
the new order. For service providers, the goal must be to
stake claim to being Digital Services Providers (DSPs).
Becoming a successful DSP will require those providers to
deliver a premium customer experience at a competitive
price for on-the-go, content-hungry customers. This is
where Intelligent Billing comes into play, allowing the DSP
to ensure that the multi-device user is aware of the various
media-rich service offerings and price options available.
How can a DSP compete against leading device-makers
unveiling breath-taking features and agile app developers
creating the latest cool must-haves? Clearly the first place
for service providers to look for a sustainable advantage is
from their ongoing relationships and frequent interactions
with users. The potential for intimacy must be realized and
reinforced at every turn to establish a valid claim for prime
real estate along the digital services value chain. In this
effort, intelligent billing provides a powerful tool to enhance
and spotlight the DSP’s value-add in contributing to an
exceptional Digital Lifestyle experience.
For more than a century, the gold standard in billing has
been measured by completeness and accuracy, ensuring
that every billable network event is captured, then billed
to the responsible party using the appropriate tariff. It’s
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an admirable goal, but one that, at best, can lead to a
dispassionate reaction from customers. At worst, billing
errors create unhappy subscribers (and/or represent
missed revenues). Until recently, service providers could
not count on billing to result in delighted customers.
The old paradigm just doesn’t work for a DSP who needs
“intelligent” billing, while still complete and accurate, but
is so much more. To be considered intelligent, the billing
system must create and communicate value to the end
user, allowing service providers to elevate their status
from commodity connectivity provider to a “real” DSP that
commands a premium.
The defining capability of intelligent billing is real-time
awareness. This means that, beyond simply capturing and
processing, the billing system must recognize the inherent
significance of the events it processes. Infused with
powerful in-line analytics, intelligent billing can support the
discovery of additional offerings and services that would
complement the user’s experience. The process might be
as simple as the age-old peddler’s trick, turned into an art
form by Amazon, of identifying additional purchases made
by comparable customers in similar circumstances. But
the potential of intelligent billing extends much further,
because the billing system has full knowledge of connected
and historical information that can infer greater insights
that can, in turn, deliver additional value to customers.
For instance, beyond recommending a second movie
featuring the same leading actor as the one the user
has just downloaded, the billing system also knows (1)
how many movies the user has downloaded in the past
month, and (2) the average consumption of the user’s
data quota over the past several months. From these, the
system can recommend not just another movie title, but
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include the suggestion as part of an appropriate movie
download service coupled with a data plan that provides
the necessary bandwidth. The secret sauce is the billing
system’s ability to synthesize a complete recommendation
that accounts for all relevant factors, all at the moment of
opportunity. Finally, since the invention of the telephone,
there is an upside from billing. This real-time awareness
delivers a win-win: the opportunity to please subscribers
by enriching their digital life while capturing incremental
revenues from the up-sell.
While this new up-sell capability alone brings immense
value, ambitious DSPs will certainly want to advance to the
next level made possible through intelligent billing. Rather
than just seeking to up-sell customers one-by-one at
checkout, new intelligent billing systems have the potential
to guide the identification of new offers that should appeal
to whole segments of existing subscribers and even new
customers. Everyone has conceded that there isn’t one,
single killer app.
It’s often said that humans use less than 10% of their
brains; it must be even more true that smartphone
owners use much less than 1% of the endless possibilities
available through their smart devices, combined with fast
broadband networks and exploding stores of content and
apps. So the clever marketer of digital services will be
constantly experimenting to refine the customer experience
for discrete segments by mashing up distinct content
and services and combining them with the appropriate
amount of bandwidth (and even including a strict quality of
service guarantee when applicable). The new generation of
billers will serve as the marketer’s laboratory, accelerating
the pace of the offer creation stream by making the
process intuitive and providing the structure for controlled
testing. Marketing at leading-edge DSPs will be agile
and resourceful, constantly adding the necessary new
offers and promotions to feed the up-sell and customer
acquisition engines.
For billing to remain relevant
it must evolve and provide
an opportunity for service
providers themselves to remain
misunderstandings about what was billed. And both
parties, the customer and the service provider, almost
always came away disappointed by the interaction. Very
seldom was it a win-win. DSPs now have an opportunity to
turn customer interactions into meaningful conversations
about how to best leverage technology, enhancing the
customer’s experience and gaining status (and profits).
Advanced billing offers these DSP gurus a unique
opportunity to cement positive customer relationships and
build longtime loyalty.
Intelligent billing allows service providers the opportunity
to transform into DSPs. It allows real-time identification
of relevant up-sell offers, taking advantage of critical
opportunities to impact the customer experience and
maximize customer value. Furthermore, DSPs can leverage
intelligent billing to better tailor offers to unique segments.
Marketers, empowered with the right data, easy-to-use
analytics tools, and an intuitive interface for offer creation,
are better able to rapidly introduce and repackage digital
services as innovative and compelling offers. Given these
advantages, DSPs can now transform their relationship
with their customers. Such DSPs will deliver a premium
customer experience powered by intelligent billing, and
their prize will be the right to monetize that premium.
Already most service providers are adding intelligent
billing to identify relevant up-sells and accelerate timeto-market for new offers. They also recognize that only
through customer intimacy can they clearly demonstrate
this value to their customers. The device makers will
continually introduce ever-greater features; app developers
will aggressively extend the new technologies into every
facet of our lives; and content owners are looking for the
best ways to open new channels. DSPs need to leverage
intelligent billing to bring value in the form of more tailored
offers to customers, and change the conversation.
In the past, more than 50% of customer interactions
were related to billing. Unfortunately, these billingrelated conversations most often centered around
tion cont ined erein is t e so e propert of ipe ine ub is in
un ut ori ed use suc
s distributin cop in
. ipe ine ub is in
odif in or reprintin is not per i ed.
reser es
ts nd pri i e es re rdin t e use of t is infor
tion. n
is docu ent is not intended for reproduction or distribution outside of
o obt in per ission to reproduce or distribute t is docu ent cont ct [email protected] for infor
tion bout eprint er ices.