Why good design is critical for good billing

Written by on August 25, 2017 in Billing & Payments, Guest Blog with 0 Comments

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With all the controversies surrounding inaccurate bills and bill shock, the need to overhaul billing communications is increasingly well understood among organisations. However, this isn’t just a technical issue. Getting the design of a bill right makes the bill easier to understand, more attractive to read and results in real business benefits.

Why taking a design-led approach is the best way to create better billing experiences

Billing communications have been the traditional bearers of unwanted tidings, the dull spreadsheet detailing consumption ending in a demand for cash, but the days of providers’ neglect of this powerful channel are ending. Organisations are starting to notice that attractively presented, clear and personalised bills enable users to understand their consumption better, result in fewer call centre interactions and create greater customer satisfaction as well as providing a regular means for organisations to communicate with their customers.

The design of the bill is the customer’s window into their relationship with the biller. In the telecoms industry, this window contains a growing number of different data points as the services provided proliferate and more one-time transactions become part of the billing mix. In other sectors, such as utilities, digital transformation and industry changes are driving bill complexity. Electricity bills, for example, now feature information on electricity being provided to the grid from home owners’ renewable energy generation alongside their consumption. This complexity is breeding the need for greater clarity in data presentation.

Complexity needs clarity

Greater depth of information delivered in a clear and attractive way is the self-evident function of effective design. However, good design cannot be an afterthought added retrospectively. A billing communications platform needs to be constructed with bill presentation in mind. It’s not just about selecting pretty colours, although the science behind colour choice is important.

“Being design-led means putting design first,” explains Brendan O’Rourke, design manager at Brite:Bill. “We don’t constrain design by force-fitting it to our technology, instead our technology works to support our customers’ chosen bill designs.”

The process of creating excellent design begins with gaining a better understanding of the customer organisation’s needs which forms the foundation upon which design-led billing communications can be developed. “We follow a process of scoping, analysing and planning the needs of our customers from a design perspective so we understand what they want to achieve,” adds O’Rourke. “We then create the design, consult on colour selections and work with different parts of the business including IT, marketing and legal teams so we include all the elements that each needs from the bill.”

Analysis first, hardware later

Working with a telecoms operator, for example, Brite:Bill typically will deploy its bill analysis technology to understand the operator’s existing bills and products, thereby ensuring that it is familiar with the data that is available to support a list of design scenarios. “Our experience tells us what works and what doesn’t and we use billing insights from the data we gather to inform each deployment,” says O’Rourke. “Finally, we identify what hardware improvements are needed to support the deployment.”

The design process therefore moves through three distinct stages: first Brite:Bill undertakes aesthetic enhancement, then it focuses on presenting engaging customer data and then it addresses functional customer messaging. Only then does attention turn to the technical side of the deployment.

“We believe good design should be invisible and to achieve that, our experts work within the constraints of our customers’ systems,” explains O’Rourke. “For example, some operators only print using one colour so we draw on our experience to maximise the impact of single-colour billing communications. Other operators’ priorities are to reduce the number of pages they print and send so we work to condense the vital information into a smaller amount of space.”

The important aspect of the design-led approach is to focus first on design before technical and development teams become involved. “We’re not working in a technically constrained way,” confirms O’Rourke. “The focus of our work is to try and solve problems for the provider’s users and we wouldn’t want to be restricted by what we can and can’t use. We look ahead at what customers want and solve the technical challenges later.”

However, O’Rourke does acknowledge that the technical challenges are significant. “Obviously there are technical constraints but our mission is first to solve the customers’ billing communication problems,” he says. “A legacy system may not communicate marketing or sales messages or there may be lots of mismatches in product descriptions on the bill, for example. We work ahead to recategorise the way organisations’ bills are displayed and to make sure customers’ bills contain what they would expect to see.”

Being design-led means Brite:Bill is able to determine where improvements can be made, identify what organisations’ current bills are missing and make sure new bills provide a friendly, informative communications channel between provider and customer. That’s a striking contrast to the impersonal, hard to read, visually unappealing bills traditionally sent out by organisations.

This sponsored article was written by Orla Power, Head of Marketing, Brite:Bill.

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