Bills and customers – is the relationship dead?

Written by on March 13, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

MonstersIt seems 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 the survey, which involved 40 CSPs and 1,000 consumers, believe their mobile operator simply does not care about individual billing issues.

The theme of the report – here is an Infographic – is that consumers need more clarity from their bill. Many – the report calculates six million – consumers complain their bill is full of jargon and many want a clearer, more personalised communication from their CSP.

On the plus side, 20 percent 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, we 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.”

Mike Bradbury of T-Exec believes it is a symptom of the attitude telcos have towards their customers. “This approach is – regrettably – typical of the telcos and their ‘utility’ mentality. When will these guys wake up and recognise that they now have serious competition for all the parts of their businesses that are profitable. The OTT/DSP providers are eating their lunch and will move on to breakfast and dinner unless the telcos find new ways of engaging their customers – for example through new services, content and partnerships. These new offerings will make billing and payments more complicated and more important to customers, not less. So they need to be integrated with the customer experience.”

This idea is backed up by a survey by Strategy Analytics that showed that ‘40 percent of the 65 million smartphone users in the US pay at least one monthly bill via their phone, and this increases to 62 percent for Millenials, who pay up to three bills.’

The billing channel – if not the bill itself –  is alive and well and 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.

Mike Bradbury also commented on the circular argument that consumers do not want bills, by concluding that “This is such brilliant idea – it could have come straight out of a Monty Python sketch!”

Let me summarize the argument as I understand it:

The evidence shows that customers do not want bills. And what is the evidence?

  1. Customers get upset when they open hard copy bills and then they complain. Ergo, they don’t like bills
  2. When they get bills by email they often don’t look at them – a clear indication that they didn’t want them in the first place.
  3. When they aren’t even told that there is a bill and the money is just taken out of their bank account, they don’t complain. So clearly the absence of a bill does not trouble them, and therefore they can’t want bills, can they?

How beautiful is that?

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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