In today’s interconnected world, telecommunications play a key role in connecting individuals, businesses, and society. Innovation in the Telco industry is part of a broader path of technological development that aims to offer increasingly flexible and automated infrastructures to customers and citizens, with the goal of increasing the quality of performance and user satisfaction while also keeping the profitability of industry players high. While technological evolution has undoubtedly enhanced and streamlined activities and processes, it has also made billing systems more complex.
Efficient billing processes, however, are critical for all telecommunications companies: to maintain financial stability, provide quality services, and meet evolving consumer demands.
In this post, we will highlight the main tools that make it possible today to transform billing arrangements in an increasingly customer-centric sense. We will see how, by experimenting with new marketing and communication approaches, it’s possible—even in a strategic sector such as telecommunications—to transform billing into an opportunity for contact, positively affecting how customers perceive companies.
Billing in telecommunications: time to move away from the traditional approach
Telecommunications companies play a key role in connecting people and they have access to a huge market for this. While there are many business opportunities because of this potential demand, it’s also true that consumers have become accustomed to ever higher standards of service. Among the main trends of 2023 that Telcos will have to follow to redefine the customer journey, there is a new concept of billing experience: billing can no longer be a chore or be perceived as a repetitive and repulsive operation (this is what happens with the traditional billing approach). Instead, it will be supported by end-to-end processes that are powered by frictionless digital payments.
On the other hand, the digital invoicing market is already an overwhelmingly expanding reality: Markets and Markets predicts that it will exceed $180 billion in value by 2026, with growth of 15.4%. The reason for such sustained growth lies in the fact that, as the benefits of using a digital billing system come to light, millions of companies are choosing to move away from the traditional paper-based approach and offline interactions.
The importance of frictionless billing processes
In today’s historical period, consumers are often faced with difficult decisions involving spending limits and available budgets: Which bills to pay first? And which ones to leave temporarily on hold?
While the main differentiating factor is the perception of what must be paid—for example, think of the importance of utilities in people’s daily lives—another factor significantly affects people’s decisions: friction in the bill-paying process.
According to the latest consumer research by PYMNTS:
- 72% of consumers name essentiality of service as the main reason for prioritizing one bill over another;
- 14% identify ease of making payments as a key factor in their decision-making process. This percentage rises nearly 10 points in the case of Millennials (23% of them prioritize billing with minimal friction).
PYMNTS data show how streamlined billing processes and the ease of making payments substantially affect the choice to prioritize one bill over another.
In general, we can see how Telco operators who are placing the new models made possible by digital transformation (and increasingly replacing them) alongside traditional billing methods are doing so with a view toward redesigning the billing experience as a true touchpoint.
Technologies that improve billing processes in telecommunications
The ever-changing landscape of technology has driven consumers to embrace digital payment systems and digital onboarding arrangements, including in the telecommunications sector. Two trends have accelerated this change:
- The widespread adoption of smartphones, which has fundamentally changed the way people access information and how they conduct financial transactions. With smartphones having become an integral part of everyday life, consumers expect convenient and seamless digital payment options.
- The rise of secure and reliable mobile banking apps has also increased consumers’ trust in digital platforms when it comes to executing financial transactions. These apps offer intuitive interfaces, robust security measures, and fast transaction processing capabilities. In addition, advances in biometric authentication technologies, such as those for fingerprint and facial recognition, have further strengthened the adoption of digital payment and onboarding systems.
While overall, the convergence of smartphones, mobile banking apps, and biometric authentication has created an ecosystem that can convince consumers to embrace onboarding and digital payments, even more advanced technologies are enabling improved billing processes in telecommunications. We list the top four here.
Paperless billing experience
Part of a paperless experience includes all of the tools that enable the complete coverage of digital processes of a fiscal and documentary nature. Products that seamlessly integrate complex processes, technological infrastructures, and procedures already in use, such as electronic invoicing, regulation-compliant digital storage, and electronic ordering. A paperless experience reduces the financial impact of processes related to document and fiscal management and simultaneously facilitates interactions between the company and customers, with positive effects on the customer experience.
Customer Communications Management (CCM)
A digital Customer Communications Management (CCM) strategy offers telecommunications companies the opportunity to radically change the way they communicate by introducing personalization and the use of multiple channels into the billing process as well. For this reason, more and more Telco companies are adopting dedicated document experience products aimed at the creation, multichannel distribution, and archiving of communications. The capabilities of these advanced systems enable the creation and distribution of paginated documents, from the processing and enrichment of complex data to the administration of articulated workflows. It is a service model that generates documents and distributes them to recipients through digital and paper channels, effectively putting the customer at the center of communication strategies.
In the case of billing processes in telecommunications, the adoption of customer communications management solutions enables collaborative multichannel document creation, storage, and distribution, and it integrates with existing systems to support the company’s strategy of digitizing communications processes. It’s an approach to the digital transformation of the customer base that involves both traditional and digital communications, with a truly multichannel approach that enhances transactional and CRM data by transforming them into documents and communications.
Billing documents can be made relevant and interesting, even enjoyable to use, by placing a personalized mini-site, showing payment history and due dates and perhaps updated with in-depth content specifically selected for the individual user, alongside the “classic” PDF of the document. In this way, what was meant to be a simple courtesy copy becomes an interaction tool for the customer, who is no longer the passive party in the relationship.
Personalized and interactive videos
Another way to make the customer’s billing experience memorable is to include a personalized video created using data on customer preferences and consumption, so as to effectively and dynamically convey all information, even that which may appear more complex. Among other things, the effectiveness of the video can be enhanced by making it interactive: the user is able to perform actions; for example, they can pay what is requested while remaining within the video (and thus with maximum convenience).
The benefits of digitization on telecommunications billing processes
The technology solutions we have mentioned enable a 360-degree management of the billing cycle and reduce the cost of IT integrations, and they help push consumers to use digital payment and onboarding systems by improving integration with CRMs that are already in use. Let’s explore this further.
Comprehensive management of the 360-degree billing cycle
A holistic billing experience is made possible by the combined use of paperless experience (which implements compliance-related processes, such as electronic billing), document experience (which distributes customer-side communications), and interactive experience (which transforms communications into videos or websites).
This comprehensive management of the billing cycle, which is achieved through the synergistic use of an ecosystem of tools, enables:
- effective communication: clear and timely interactions between customers, service providers and teams overseeing billing processes, and accurate billing information to address any discrepancies or concerns in a timely manner;
- regulatory compliance: telecom companies must adhere to industry-specific rules and regulations to maintain transparency and fairness in billing practices;
- increased sustainability of processes, resulting in reduced paper usage, faster delivery, and greater accessibility for customers.
By implementing a 360-degree approach to billing cycle management, telecom companies can streamline operations, improve customer satisfaction, and maintain regulatory compliance with less effort.
Cost savings compared with one-stop shop mode
A digital billing process such as the one we are outlining offers significant cost-savings advantages over the traditional one-stop shop approach:
- decreased printing, packaging, and shipping costs related to the creation and distribution of physical paper invoices;
- reduced storage space needed to store physical documents and, as a result, reduced management overhead;
- reduced labor costs and increased operational efficiency resulting from the automation of data entry procedures;
- reduced workload on customer service (users can access their account independently and thus have more information resources at their disposal and less need to contact customer care).
Overall, the digital billing process simplifies operations, reduces administrative costs, and provides a more cost-effective solution for telecom industries than the traditional one-stop shop model.
Reduced IT integration and maintenance costs
Under the traditional paper billing system, telecommunications companies invested significant resources in managing physical invoices, manual data entry, and the IT infrastructure associated with these operations. The transition to digital billing processes has streamlined all of these workflows, forcing a modernization of legacy technology. It has enabled automated data capture, eliminated the need for manual intervention, reduced human error, and allowed IT staff to focus on more strategic activities. In this way, new technologies have facilitated integration with existing IT systems, and enabled telecommunications companies to obtain more accurate and timely information, based on which they can further optimize their operations. Digital billing processes also offer faster invoice processing times and advanced data analysis capabilities. For all these reasons, in the telecommunications industry, IT integration and maintenance costs have decreased significantly, in the face of more efficient resource allocation.
Integration of customer care processes
By leveraging digital platforms, telecom companies can streamline the entire billing process, from bill generation to payment collection, enabling faster and more accurate transactions. Integrating digital customer care processes with tools that automate billing operations reduces manual errors by human operators and improves efficiency. Self-service capabilities, which allow customers to access their billing information anytime, anywhere and manage their accounts independently, have the ability to increase the real and perceived transparency of the billing customer experience. In addition, digital integration facilitates personalized billing solutions, enabling telecommunications companies to offer customized plans, discounts, and promotions that are tailored to the needs of individual customers. Overall, the integration of digital customer care processes improve the efficiency and transparency of billing processes in the telecommunications industry and increase customer satisfaction, opening up the possibility of increasingly personalized services.
Improving the billing experience in telecommunications to build valuable relationships
Improving billing processes in telecommunications is not the end goal that drives companies in the industry to adopt new technologies. The long-term goal is to build valuable relationships with customers.
The billing experience is often seen as a trivial transactional process, when in fact it represents a moment of truth where customers can assess the value they receive in return for their investment (investment in time and economic resources). In the case of the Telco sector, where the relationship with customers is all the more articulated and multidimensional, the billing phase offers companies an opportunity to demonstrate transparency, efficiency, and customer focus.
Complex statements and convoluted payment procedures can be a major source of frustration for customers. Therefore, telecom companies should focus on simplifying the billing process, ensuring clarity and ease of understanding.
Transparent and concise billing can go a long way toward meeting customer needs and building trust. Leveraging digital solutions, as we have seen, can improve billing processes. Online portals and mobile apps can empower customers by providing them with real-time access to billing information, payment options, and personalized offers. By embracing automation and self-service tools, telecom companies enable customers to conveniently manage their accounts.
By recognizing the importance of the billing experience and leveraging it as a powerful touch point, telecom companies can improve customer satisfaction, promote loyalty, and gain a competitive advantage.