How easy-to-understand billing is a big opportunity for telecoms to improve customer experience

As 2018 begins, it’s clear that the customers of telecoms operators want to receive their bills and get information about their usage and other relevant services in more personalised and visually appealing ways.

The next 12 months will see a shift to offer this as operators do more to change and update their billing communications. New technologies, such as chatbots, are also being introduced to enhance the customer experience.

Bill confusion

While this is great news, currently, much remains the same when it comes to billing and customers continue to find their bills hard to understand.

In a recent Brite:Bill survey, conducted in August 2017, 68 per cent of customers agreed that their bills are hard to understand. In 2018, this is set to become even more glaring as expanded digital service provisions expose old weaknesses in bills and the billing process. The current presentation of billing information continues to hinder operators and their customers from having a pleasant customer experience.

In 2018, expect billing issues to continue to drive enquiries, complaints and churn. Our research has revealed that 30 per cent of customer complaints are due to billing, with 15 per cent about contract issues.

The level of service needed to support this plus the financial impact on Communication Service Providers is substantial. In the UK, the Ombudsman has calculated that UK operators are losing £2.9 billion per year from customers decreasing usage or moving to rivals.

Additionally, 29 per cent of all customers have contacted their service provider to complain or enquire about their bill in the last two years. And, customers are willing and able to change providers if their billing is unsatisfactory. 16 per cent of respondents said they had changed operator as a result of billing issues.

This finding indicates an enormous opportunity for operators if you consider the average cost of attracting a new customer in the US is more than US$300 and the monthly churn rate for Verizon Wireless was 1.19 per cent in Q2 2017 (or 14.3 per cent, per year). Based on reported average revenue per user (ARPU), churn is estimated to be costing the top four US carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) an average of $65 million per month, per carrier.

The Brite:Bill study found that 44 per cent of lost customers had also experienced a billing problem. Improving billing and bill enquiries, therefore, has the potential to substantially reduce churn rates, and reducing this rate by even a few percentage points can have a major impact on profitability.

Bill shock

Another impact to highlight for 2018 is bill shock. Even though international roaming premiums have now been regulated for customers within the European Union, there is still great opportunity for them to spend more than they expected on services provided by operators.

Bill shock is still surprisingly common, and our survey found that 24 per cent of customers have experienced it. However, if a Communication Service Provider can anticipate a bill shock event and be more proactive, by contacting customers in a timely fashion, it can lessen the impact and reduce the costs associated with this event

Finally, in 2018, I expect to see new technologies having an impact on how customers interact with their bills and their operators. Chatbots will start to enter the market and our research reveals that they will be welcomed. 39 per cent of customers said they would like access to a chatbot for bill enquiries and almost a third (29 per cent) of all respondents think chatbots are a good alternative to a customer care line. Operators will want to harness this new technology to serve their customers better and utilise its potential to substantially improve billing communications.

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