Billing management is a critical aspect for companies in the Utilities sector, and it involves complex processes and a myriad of customer interactions. In recent years, utilities have had to introduce numerous innovations in order to make the management of billing operations increasingly more efficient.
The real breakthrough in this regard comes thanks to the development of cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, which have made it possible to radically transform and improve the billing experience, both for utility companies and, more importantly, for their customers. SaaS billing platforms can automate the entire billing process, from bill generation to payment processing to consumption tracking, making overall billing activity more efficient and accurate. The billing experience supported by a cloud-based SaaS platform and integrated with active cycle management systems, is high performing, secure, and fully compliant with all regulations and standards. By reducing payment times and the costs associated with customer care, cloud solutions simplify the billing process for companies and utilities and increase customer satisfaction. At the same time, utilities are able to expand opportunities by offering new services and products.
Utility sector billing: the revolution of the SaaS model
Software as a Service (SaaS) billing (also often referred to as subscription-based billing) is the process of generating and collecting payments from users that occurs on a periodic basis and according to the “software as a service” business model. The introduction of SaaS in billing activities is a critical development for billing in the Utility sector because it enables companies to receive predictable and recurring revenue streams.
Automation of billing activities
SaaS software automates many processes that are associated with traditional billing, including customer subscription management and payment collection, all within a single unified platform. Automation saves time, reduces the costs associated with manual processes, and significantly limits human error. SaaS billing software offers advanced features such as automated payment reminders, customizable invoices, real-time payment processing, and real-time revenue tracking. It also enables a higher level of protection for sensitive financial information and ensures compliance with industry regulations, helping companies avoid expensive penalties.
Integration with customer service processes
The software as a service model also encourages the integration of digital customer service processes with billing tools, opening up the possibility of developing self-service capabilities that increase the actual and perceived transparency of the entire experience. Users can thus access billing information at any time and place, and they are able to manage their accounts themselves. In addition, digital integration facilitates personalized billing solutions, enabling companies to offer plans, discounts, and promotions that are tailored to the individual needs of customers. Overall, the integration of digital customer service processes improves the efficiency and transparency of billing processes in the industry and increases customer satisfaction, setting the stage for the development of increasingly tailored services.
The power of the cloud for increasing corporate knowledge
SaaS solutions in the cloud enable advanced analytics activities that can make decision making more accurate because it’s based on data. By harnessing the power of the cloud, utilities can analyze large amounts of billing information in real time and identify patterns, trends, and anomalies in a timely manner. This enables companies to understand customer behavior and design new and more engaging modes of communication by which they can enhance what they have learned about their users by incorporating the knowledge gained within interactive and personalized content (e.g., customized mini-sites and videos that convey a wide range of messages: from insights and news about products that meet specific interests or needs, to updates on changes in regulations or in service delivery that are sent at the appropriate time and on the most appropriate channels, to institutional communications that strengthen brand reputation).
The Utility billing software market
While billing operations in the Utility sector consist of numerous activities—from billing to payments, from collections to customer service—SaaS billing in the cloud manages the entire process through the use of tools and the implementation of specific strategies. The ability of this model to take on such a wide and multifaceted range of operations is probably the main reason why the utility billing software market is expanding at a more than brisk pace.
In 2022, the global utility billing software market reached $5.1 billion. Looking ahead, IMARC Group expects the market to reach $8.4 billion by 2028, with a growth rate of 8.3% over 2023-2028.
The growing need to increase operational efficiency while containing costs has led to a shift away from conventional bill payment methods and instead toward online applications. In addition, the integration of cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, smart metering, and smart grids into legacy billing systems have further boosted market expansion for companies in the Utility sector. The widespread use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops to support digital payments and increasing accessibility to high-speed internet are also creating extremely positive prospects for increasing the value of the industry in the near future.
What does billing software do?
Utility billing software are specially designed platforms that are implemented to perform billing activities for gas, water, electricity, and waste cycle management services. They help generate bills, send payments, resolve user requests, manage accounts, and examine insolvency situations (thereby reducing the risk of fraudulent activities). By providing accurate and up-to-date data, utility billing software also helps utilities improve their customer service, reducing the cost of service, and enabling companies to strategically develop marketing campaigns. Currently, billing software is commercially categorized according to different deployment models: on-premise, build-your-own, and cloud-based solutions. In this post, we will address the latter category.
All the benefits of the cloud-based SaaS model for Utility billing
The billing experience that is supported by a cloud-based SaaS platform—high performing, secure, and integrated with active cycle management systems—is able to comply with all regulations and standards, reduce payment times and costs associated with customer care, and offer new services and products, expanding the opportunities for business growth and improving the overall customer experience. Therefore, there are many benefits. Let’s look at them one by one.
Centralized billing system
One of the main benefits of using a cloud-based SaaS platform for billing management is the ability to centralize all operations. With a unified system, utilities can consolidate customer data, meter readings, rates, and billing cycles into a single virtual repository that is easily accessible for different business teams. This centralization simplifies data management, reduces errors, and enables seamless coordination across departments.
Automated billing processes
A SaaS platform can automate various tasks, such as collecting meter readings, generating contracts and transactional documents, processing payments, and sending invoices. By eliminating manual intervention and reducing potential human error, utilities can process more accurate documents, speed up processes, and ensure timely billing.
Flexible billing models
Utility companies are increasingly offering various billing models (fixed-rate, time-of-use, tiered). Manually managing these different billing models can be challenging and error-prone. A cloud-based SaaS platform makes it possible to configure and manage different billing models with less effort. The flexibility of the platform also allows the implementation of complex rate structures and ensures accurate billing according to specific customer needs.
Self-service customer portals
A SaaS platform can provide utilities with the ability to build self-service portals for their users that allow them to conveniently access and manage their billing information on their own. Here, the customer can view bills, make payments, track consumption patterns, and raise questions or complaints: by implementing self-service options directly through the portal, utilities improve customer satisfaction, reduce service costs, and nurture a sense of transparency.
Integration with external systems
Billing management does not exist in isolation; it is interconnected with other systems within the company’s technology infrastructure. A SaaS platform can integrate seamlessly with other platforms, for example, those that manage customer relationships (CRM), meter data (MDM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, end-user communications (CCM), and company-produced content (CMS). This integration simplifies data flow, reduces duplicate entries, and ensures consistency of information across the organization, leading to greater billing accuracy and efficiency.
With cloud-based solutions, companies can easily scale their infrastructure to meet loads subject to demand trends. The cloud provides virtually unlimited storage space and computing power, allows large data sets to be managed efficiently, and billing information to be processed in real time. This scalability ensures that billing processes remain fluid, regardless of company size or user fluctuations.
Traditional billing systems often require physical servers and dedicated IT resources, limiting access to billing information to a specific location (building, place, computer) or to a few select individuals. Cloud-based solutions eliminate space and time barriers by providing access to billing data from anywhere, anytime. This increased accessibility enables utilities to streamline their operations, equip their employees with remote capabilities, and improve customer care. Customers, on the other hand, can access their billing information online, view details on usage habits and consumption, and make payments through the channel of their choice; inevitably, their overall experience improves.
Security and reliability in data management
Cloud service providers take strict security measures to protect data from unauthorized access and ensure that sensitive billing information remains secure. In addition, cloud solutions use redundancy and backup mechanisms to preserve data integrity and minimize the risk of loss due to any failures, accidents, or unpredictable external events.
While traditional billing systems often require substantial upfront investments in hardware, software licenses, and maintenance costs, cloud-based solutions eliminate the costs associated with managing the physical infrastructure (related to adjusting to cooling, power, and space requirements). As such, for utilities who want to optimize their operating expenses, cloud-based billing solutions are an extremely economically attractive option.
Data-driven decision making
By choosing cloud billing solutions, utilities can analyze large amounts of data in real time and identify patterns, trends, and irregularities early. This enables companies to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, optimize pricing strategies, detect possible declines in profitability, and improve overall billing accuracy.
Doxee for Utility billing: how to achieve a holistic experience
The most advanced technological solutions, which are capable of communicating with each other to build a holistic, fluid, omnichannel billing experience, enable a precise and detailed overview of user behavior over time, which translates into the possibility of more efficient and effective management of more business activities and a significant reduction in costs (first and foremost, those related to IT integration). In the Utility sector, Doxee makes a total billing experience possible through the combined use of three cloud-based product lines that enable:
- paperless processes (which include electronic invoicing and enable compliance updates);
- document management processes (i.e., omnichannel distribution of customer communications);
- experience management processes (which, through the use of content creation platforms, transform communications into videos or websites).
This comprehensive management of the billing cycle, which is achieved through the synergistic use of a set of tools, enables effective communication between customers, service providers, and teams who are responsible for billing processes. It ensures regulatory compliance by guaranteeing adherence to industry-specific rules and regulations; it implements more sustainable processes involving less paper use, faster distribution of communications, and greater accessibility for customers.
By choosing Doxee tools (which are best suited to achieve billing cycle management with 360-degree coverage), utilities can:
- bulk send their bills and store them in compliance with regulations through a secure, high-performance system – thereby gaining control over the complete management of mailings, notifications, and statuses in a secure manner;
- personalize the look and feel of bills by highlighting the salient content in the document (consumption, due dates, payment methods);
- reach the customer on multiple digital (and non-digital) channels even in parallel, turning the document into a powerful interactive tool and increasing its communicative value;
- expand the offer by including content to enable upselling and cross-selling processes.
In conclusion, with SaaS platforms in the cloud, utilities can streamline operations, reduce the likelihood of human error, increase process efficiency and productivity, maintain regulatory compliance, and improve customer satisfaction, all with less effort. Doxee’s Utility solutions provide all the support needed to implement a comprehensive approach to managing the billing cycle, fostering technological and cultural change and profoundly transforming the entire billing process.