Better information use drives loyalty

Ed Finegold, TM Forum
20 Feb 2008

Billing continues to be an inexact science for communications service providers of all types. Though current billing debates often revolve around flat-rate bundles for consumer services, enterprise billing is where the real challenges and competitive advantages lie.

While the whole world seems to be talking about consumer services and new content, the real action from a revenue and profitability perspective remains in the enterprise domain. Enterprise billing remains extremely complex because of one-off rating schemes; a high volume of move, add, change and disconnect orders; and ongoing integration programs that are driving hard-to-cut costs by eliminating dozens of legacy systems left over from the mega-mergers of the recent past. Billing does not stand alone though, because it is tied closely to customer experience.

Enterprise customers are facing increasing expense pressure, and the predicted economic recession in the US will only tighten the grip. Enterprises are also facing more accounting scrutiny, thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. As a result, they seek an increasing level of instant access to billing data and reporting capabilities. The online self-care portal has become a real competitive differentiator for telcos playing in the enterprise space.

According to Mark Chodoronek, executive director of customer enablement for Verizon Business, its customers have three options for accessing their billing, usage and related services data: an online portal, EDI-based system-to-system transactions, and direct integration with CRM environments for billing, reporting, ordering, repair and inventory functions. Customers can submit and track trouble tickets; track move, add, change and disconnect orders; and track their service performance against their SLAs with a NOC-like view of complete topology maps from the global level down to individual devices.

Customers can also examine their billing detail at any level and have a range of payment options from credit and debit cards to purchase cards and electronic funds transfers. They can access archived reports and invoices going back seven years, and can do so in nine different languages.

The value of reporting applications to enterprises has increased significantly. Chodoronek explains that Verizon Business has responded to an increasing demand for telecom expense management capabilities with its self-care capabilities. Enterprises want to "check the checker" in multiple ways.

First, the CSP is providing downloadable reporting software with 75 pre-defined reports and an endless number of customization options. Enterprises tend to use these capabilities to create custom reports; perform internal analytics; analyze expenditure at regional, organizational and user levels; and perform internal charge backs. These tools are also used to identify and monitor fraud, as well as to validate slamming and federal, regional, state and local taxes among their many subsidiaries.

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