Enterprise customers are your most profitable customers. They can also be, let’s face it, pretty challenging to deal with. The good news is that this may be a thing of the past.
Enterprise contracts are traditionally complex and long-winded, too many are needed to manage the account and terms can vary hugely between customers. Provisioning is perhaps even more complex and a juggling act between the customer and the network, IT and billing guys.
Inaccurate bills and bill-shock are common. Bill disputes impact customer satisfaction and can lead to significant revenue write-off; as much as 10-15% of total enterprise revenue according to the results of a 2011 Stratecast study. It’s almost inevitable that the billing department manually re-run the first bill and it’s not at all uncommon for bills to be re-run three or four times a year for some customers. Bills can be delivered by FedEx in four or five large boxes. Auditing can take weeks. Keeping track of inventory is a nightmare and often the largest complaint of telecoms managers.
But, because enterprise customers are so profitable, operators can assemble the power to manage these challenges. There have been examples of CEOs chairing billing seminars and workshops with their biggest customers to make sure that they were happy. Such senior attention generally assures resolution, but at great cost and complexity. New roles have since emerged, such the billing account manager who work for billing and liaised between the customer, billing, IT and network departments to manage expectations and particularly ensure the first bill is in line with customers’ expectations.
But manual review and re-work did not constitute a proper solution - it was a fix and a costly one at that. And when smartphones arrived and data became the lifeblood of the road, the problems compounded. Suddenly telecoms managers became expense claim processors as mobile payments allowed phones to be used as credit cards, and personal usage and roaming pushed bills ever higher. Private and corporate use had to be partitioned and managed, a challenge made no easier by Bring Your Own Disruption (sorry, Device) trends. Essentially, the telecoms manager was always playing catch up…and operators were playing catch up with them.
So, surely the benefits that real-time BSS offers the consumer segment in terms of transparency, immediacy, control and innovation could be brought to bear on the enterprise segment to even greater effect. They can in theory, for sure, but in practice real-time BSS has evolved around very simple scenarios with one or at most a few devices and simple services. The prospect of applying real-time to enterprise accounts or balances shared by hundreds or even thousands of devices grouped over multiple cost centers and complex hierarchies was simply impossible. However, as new technologies redefine the art of the possible, real-time can finally be positioned as a genuine solution for enterprise customers, with the potential to massively reduce the effort and cost associated with complexity, inaccuracy and manual process.
Imagine, instead of having to specify and provision service for each circuit or device, being able to allocate service allowances (data, voice, messaging, executive video conferencing) directly at the enterprise level. Allowances can be negotiated and sized based on historical usage, projected growth and some margin. The rates would be highly competitive because you would be giving the telecoms manager much greater power to provision service across his organization by cost center, group or even individual device, instead of doing this on his behalf. They could allocate and ‘trade’ service allowances, review usage in real-time, set limits, be immediately notified as limits are approached and define policies to determine if and how services should be restricted as limits are exceeded.
BYOD is supported through flexible policies that can immediately steer charges to personal or corporate accounts based on criteria such as service type, time of day or pretty much any other network or subscriber profile parameter.
In short, real-time BSS offers telecoms managers much greater ability to configure, control and analyze usage within their organisations. They are no longer constantly on the back-foot but are instead enabled to take a much more proactive and efficient approach to managing their organization’s communication assets. Real-time immediacy, transparency and control combine to massively reduce the probability of bill shock and its consequences in terms of revenue write-off, dispute resolution cost and damaged customer relationships.
Oddly, this is not a new concept. In the mid 1990s there was the emergence of Virtual Private Networks. The concept was that large corporates would basically become their own telecoms operator – complete in some cases, with a telecoms operating license - managing data and voice throughout their company in the same way a small telco would manage its customers. In today’s terminology, large corporates could become their own MVNO.
It sort of worked, but the challenge before the telecoms manager of the large corporate was to become a network, billing and IT expert overnight. And this was culturally hard. Now, though, the flexibility and sophistication that real time control, charging and balance management brings will enable operators to give large corporates and their telecoms managers the freedom to control their own services, without expecting them to become the head of several different departments within a telco.