Opinion: CSPs must evolve their billing systems to mobilise the enterprise

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/martinwimmer)

The consumer mobile experience has evolved and communications service providers (CSPs) are now empowering subscribers by giving them the ability to purchase data top-ups, access services on-demand and view accurate balances instantaneously. However, this advanced billing experience, enabled through real-time business support systems (BSS), is currently limited to the consumer and has not yet been implemented in the enterprise. The enterprise billing experience needs a vital upgrade in order to meet complex demands of today’s businesses.

CSPs are currently servicing the enterprise using legacy back office systems built primarily for voice and SMS that cannot handle the quantity and variation of mobile data that is being created today. In fact, the ‘batch billing’ process that is being used by many providers has had little modernization since it was introduced 25 years ago.

The result is that today’s enterprises have a critical lack of visibility and control over their mobile data spend and usage. This can cause unexpected charges, generate unnecessary queries to account managers, create billing disputes, and ultimately lead to churn to another service provider.

In order to keep large blue chip enterprises from churning, CSP write off millions of dollars every year in goodwill. They have to deal with frequent disputes and ultimately are left with dissatisfied customers who have no real control over their mobile costs.

This situation is surprising given that enterprises have higher average revenue per user (ARPU) than consumers (up to double in some countries), and continue to make up a valuable part of service providers’ core revenues. In today’s digital world, the enterprise billing experience needs an urgent upgrade – batch billing and unexpected costs are no longer acceptable and must give way to real-time customizable billing options that puts the customer in control.

The demands of a digital enterprise

As mobility plays an increasingly important role in modern business, CSPs must consider the complex requirements of their enterprise customers in order to service them efficiently.

Enterprises require bespoke contracts that fit their company size and needs. Large businesses, for example, will share a pool of data and minutes across the business, and administrators need a real-time accurate view of spending across different departments, individuals and users. This must be supported by the ability to set spending limits and receive real-time notifications of usage, to ensure minimum commitments are met and resources are not wasted.

The organizational structures of enterprises, which change and evolve rapidly, add to the complex nature of enterprise billing. Users are grouped to track costs across different business units, and a hierarchy dictates who can administer the account and purchase additional services, or re-appropriate data to different individuals or departments from those of low usage to those which use a lot of data or even break through their allocation. Some individual users will move departments or leave the business, and whole new segments of a business may be created with a unique set of mobile demands. Enterprises must therefore be able to manage groups of users and hierarchies, quickly and easily – a level of granularity which is just not possible using conventional BSS.

Another consideration is that enterprises require accurate budget forecasting – a vital part of running a successful business. Managing telecoms expenditure is a challenge for financial departments due to inconsistencies caused by long delays between usage and then receiving a bill, often up to a month afterwards. Employees have no way of accurately understanding their usage, and can often inadvertently run up large, unexpected charges by using data roaming, which may go unnoticed until the bill arrives and is analysed.  Businesses therefore require real-time insight into their incurred usage, with the ability to re-appropriate data and minutes between departments and users to ensure mobile expenditure is always consistent.

A real-time approach to enterprise billing

In order to deliver upon the demands of today’s digital enterprise, CSPs must inject real-time capabilities into their networks that gives the customer total control over their mobile billing experience. CFOs, administrators and department heads should have full visibility over their account activity and spend, which CSPs can deliver through an online dashboard that provides a rich interactive display for all account activity in real-time. This will help them understand how much data they are using and where data allocations can be more effectively positioned, as well as make the case for purchasing more data instantaneously. It can also enable enterprises to set notifications, and accurately forecast the total account spend each month by setting group and individual spend limits that can be configured based on hierarchy.

Today’s enterprises have a new set of demands and require a mobile experience that gives them total control to manage and adapt it to suit their business needs. CSPs must evolve their billing systems in order to deliver on this demand, or else risk losing enterprise clients that make up a vital part of their core revenue.

Do you think CSPs need to evolve their billing systems? Let us know in the comments.

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