Manual processes have always been an integral part of billing operations. In a world of offline batch billing, it was relatively straightforward to inject manual actions at various points in the billing process and get the correct results. But as BSS goes real-time, executing manual processes without disturbing operations and accuracy becomes much more challenging and in some cases near impossible.
Re-rating is invariably near the top of any billing manager’s list of most used manual processes. When used to correct already priced usage, re-rating can be triggered by many conditions. Among the most common are CDRs delivered out of sequence to the rating engine; a customer changing tariff mid bill-cycle requiring pro-rata adjustments of allocations or bundles; a discount based on the total bill; incorrectly provisioned plans, and so on.
Such re-rating scenarios are fine when a bill is not seen by the customer until the end of the month as there is time to make re-rating adjustments before generating an invoice. But as BSS goes real-time, not only can re-rating become technically complex but, even when correctly executed, can undermine many of the benefits that motivated the operator to deploy real-time.
Imagine a customer queries their balance with a result of, say, $20, only to query a few seconds later with no additional usage and find the result has changed to $23 due to a re-rating event. Transparent? Absolutely not. Call centre watch out! Real-time re-rating will be further complicated as tariff innovations such as shared / family plans and increased user interaction (e.g. funds transfers) make it much more complex to roll-back and re-price transactions.
So let’s challenge those ‘because we did it this way yesterday, so must we do it tomorrow’ assumptions. Instead of battling to implement re-rating mechanisms made ever more complex by real-time, why not consider simpler solutions more consistent with a real-time world? The good news is that these alternative approaches also serve as an opportunity to enrich customer engagement and drive new value.
For example, if you miscalculate overall discount, why not offer an equivalent or even slightly larger credit for the following month? And tell the customer! Communicating with them signals that you care and are rewarding them for being loyal. Keeping quiet or simply correcting the bill is a faceless way of behaving.
Or better still, simply dispense with month-end discounts which, let’s face it, are rather ‘batch world’. Instead, offer immediate discounts in real-time as various thresholds are met. This is another opportunity to touch the customer in a positive way as they are immediately informed that their usage is being discounted. Similarly, usage can be stimulated by informing the customer as they approach a discount threshold.
In the case of a customer changing tariff mid-bill cycle, pro-rating is often required to make a number of adjustments. This is a very technical approach - simple with offline, much less so with real-time. Instead, why not defer the change to the next bill cycle, sweetened with an incentive if necessary and use the change as an opportunity to engage with the customer. Why did they change tariff? Does this change the type of offers you can promote? Incentives plus relevant communication equals happier customers.
And what about those out-of-sequence CDRs. Well, as postpaid migrates online - what CDRs ?
LTE and the roll out of mobile broadband means customers consider anything that happens on or through their mobile device in the same way that they do the Internet. Devices are now windows, not phones or computers. This means that we must rapidly move not only technology but our thinking about what makes business sense - and what doesn’t - in a real-time world.
Real-time is a game changer - and the new game has no place for complex manual processes that increase cost and reduce transparency.