When customer billing satisfaction is easier on paper (literally)

Telecom Asia Enterprise CEM e-Brief

The enterprise sector has always been a challenging one for telcos, especially when it comes to backend support. And the move to digital services is creating new levels of complexity for telcos when it comes to targeting enterprise customers, billing them and keeping them happy. But individual markets have their own distinct challenges, and in some cases it’s really the simple things that provide the most pressing problems - and the solution isn’t always technical.

In the Philippines, for example, when it comes to customer satisfaction, the concerns for both consumer and B2B customers tend to focus on basic things like bill delivery, timeliness and correctness, according to customer surveys conducted by incumbent telco PLDT.

Ana Maria Sotto, head of PLDT’s Technology Project Management Office and EICB Customer Experience Management, says that something as relatively simple as bill delivery is a particular challenge in the Philippines thanks to its tricky geography.

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“We have 7,100 islands, and in the remote areas we get frequent complaints that they don’t get their bills on time, or they don’t get them at all,” she says.

A potential solution to this problem is online billing and payments, which PLDT introduced not too long ago. However there’s been a lot of cultural resistance to online bills, Sotto says.

“We still deliver mainly paper bills, and there has been very little adaptability to online bills,” she says. “There’s been very little take-up, and in our customer satisfaction surveys it’s one of the top two concerns.”

There has also been little take-up of paying bills online. While consumers and SMBs have the option to pay online, Sotto explains, “for the large companies, we’re not pushing for other payment channels other than having our collection team go to their office and get their payment cheques.”

She says this is at least partly the product of local business culture being cautious of change. “I think some of our customers aren’t yet that confident about online payments or using the internet to pay bills.”

This is especially true for public-sector customers such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Sotto adds. “They still require paper bills for them to pay their accounts.” 

PLDT has been implementing relatively simple strategies to address the problem. For traditional paper bill delivery the telco transferred ownership to its own courier services, and has run extensive campaigns to promote online bills.

“In the case of our SMB customers, for example, each time we complete a new service for them we auto-enroll their services into online,” she says, “although that doesn’t take away the paper bill.”

On the bright side, Sotto says that customer satisfaction with bill services has improved since such measures were implemented.

Meanwhile - in terms of rising service complexity - another thing that customers are demanding is consolidated billing statements. “Bill presentment has already improved over the years, but customers want consolidated billing,” Sotto says.

She agrees that B2B billing is more complex than consumer billing. “On the consumer side you may only get one or two bills: one for fixed services from PLDT, and one for wireless from our sister company Smart. But our B2B customers will have one bill for each service they subscribe to.”

That’s just for traditional services, she notes. “Once you start factoring in bundled offers, OTT content, cloud solutions, M2M services, and so on, the billing aspect gets more and more complex.”

This article was first published in Telecom Asia Enterprise CEM e-Brief

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