www.pipelinepub.com 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 optimized. 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 infor 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 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 . ipe ine ub is in odif in or reprintin is not per i ed. reser es ri 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 www.pipelinepub.com. o obt in per ission to reproduce or distribute t is docu ent cont ct [email protected] for infor tion bout eprint er ices. Not for distribution or reproduction. 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 relevant. 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 infor 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 ri 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 www.pipelinepub.com. o obt in per ission to reproduce or distribute t is docu ent cont ct [email protected] for infor tion bout eprint er ices.
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