Customers don't hate bills - they just hate getting them

Tony Poulos and Alex Leslie/DisruptiveViews
10 Jun 2015
00:00
News
Commentary

There is a common conception that the reason consumers do not want bills is that they hate them. According to a survey by Dublin based billing company BriteBill, customers believe there is more chance of aliens walking amongst us than there is of getting a customer-focused bill. One third of respondents to the survey - which involved 40 communications service providers (CSPs) and 1,000 consumers - believed their mobile operators simply do not care about individual billing issues.

The theme of the report is that consumers need more clarity from their bill. Many (the report calculates six million) consumers complain their bills are full of jargon they don’t understand, and many want a clearer, more personalized form of communication from their CSP.

On the plus side, 20% of consumers would welcome hearing about new offers, if they were relevant, via their bill. And 10 million customers would recommend their CSP if they were pleased with their billing experience. Clearly, though, very few are.

This may be why we have had debates in the past, heated at times, about whether customers actually want bills. A bill, as concluded at a recent ETIS Billing and Revenue Management session, will always have a negative impact. As one leading European operator said, “Of course consumers do not want bills anymore. It is too much trouble. What they want is to look at their bank statement. If the amount is about what they expected, they are happy. If it is different they want to pick up the phone.” They also found that not sending out a text to customers saying their bill was ready reduced the calls about billing to virtually zero!

The conclusion that customers do not want bills is flawed, says Keith Russell of Striata. In fact, “it is not that the customer doesn’t want a bill - it’s just that he doesn’t want to go through all the trouble to access the almost useless bill being presented to him. This trouble often involves finding the relevant website, logging on (after finding the password!) and then finding the ‘eBill.’ And this ‘eBill’ is a flat PDF, which is just the same as his old paper bill.”

A survey by Strategy Analytics showed that “40% of the 65 million smartphone users in the US pay at least one monthly bill via their phone, and this increases to 62% for millennials, who pay up to three bills.” The billing channel - if not the bill itself - is certainly alive and well but probably needs to be better supported.

Interestingly, one-third of 16-24 year olds want easier access to billing information across multiple devices, supporting research from consultancy Northstream and commissioned by AsiaInfo that concludes that CSPs need to focus on omni-channel customer support and calculate that doing it right will save $4.6 billion a year in opex, in Western Europe alone.

So, perhaps the bill is not dead. But it is not well either, and needs a thorough makeover so that it is fit for purpose once more. And that purpose must have a better customer experience at its core.
Apart from the legal obligation to still provide a paper bill in some countries, wouldn’t it be easier and far more functional in the 21st century to provide a record of service online? Even then, one wonders just how many people would even bother to look. Maybe if all that money spent on bill production and delivery was used to provide better and cheaper services, it would be the final incentive to dump bills altogether.

This column appeared previously on DisruptiveViews.com

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