Automating Billing and Revenue Management is imperative for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) in the telecom industry. Beyond technological advancement, it’s a strategic necessity. Accurate billing is pivotal for customer experience, compliance, financial stability, and shareholder confidence. Automation supports CSPs in this complex landscape, enabling precision, streamlined operations, and revenue growth.
This blog explores Automated Billing and Revenue Management for CSPs, exploring into how automation enhances accuracy, speed, and efficiency.
Billing and Invoicing
Communication Service Providers (CSPs) need to ensure that they can bill their customers accurately, securely, and efficiently, as this is the core of their revenue stream. The impacts of not doing so are not only important to the customer experience, and everything that goes with this, but also to the compliance of the business and onwards to the confidence of shareholders and the stock markets on which some trade.
This is a huge, but necessary undertaking and cannot be efficiently or accurately achieved without Automation. The billing process is complex, and CSPs leverage Automation solutions to improve accuracy, move data between network readings, data lakes, to ERPs, resellers, other licensed operators and many more. Efficient, error free Automation for billing and revenue management is a survival requirement.
Automated Billing and Invoicing
CSPs can automate the sequence and pace of events needed for accurate billing and revenue management. Automation not only deals with accuracy and speed of existing customer data, but also reduces Time to Revenue and Time to Value.
Lead-to-Cash processes for a CSP historically took days or weeks. To be competitive, Automation has iterated these processes from weeks to just seconds. This speed of delivery today is the difference between increased ARPU, a new customer and a happy customer, and a cancellation during the cool-off, compensation and superfluous costs.
Speed is not the only factor. Quality also counts!
Automation can also help a CSP test their service(s) before handing them over to customers. This testing ensures that the services are functioning correctly and meet the customer’s requirements, ensuring quick adoption, satisfied customers which in turn reduces the potential for problems in the billing process. This highlights how interconnected widely different business operations can be.
Fraud Detection and Prevention
CSPs can use Automation to assist with fraud detection and prevention across the billing cycle. This can include real-time monitoring and rule-based alerts which trigger when specific billing patterns or anomalies are detected. Investigations can be streamlined by automatically collecting and analysing relevant data. In addition, CORTEX can also autonomously respond to such events, including notifying customers, service managers, and law enforcement agencies; initiating usage tracking; or limiting or denying service.
Revenue Assurance and Optimisation
Automation can assist CSPs in the accuracy of their revenue management. In addition, Automation allows CSPs to ensure that everything that was provisioned for the customer when they joined the network is taken out when they leave, optimising and managing costs. Where CPE or other physical equipment was provided to the customer, tracking, and guaranteeing its return status correctly can help the CSP conform to its ‘green chain’ regulatory requirements (such as WEEE).
Subscriber Life Cycle Management Automation
Life Cycle Management is also an essential aspect of revenue management, where services are created, amended, and ceased. Automation can help track these changes and make sure that resources are changed appropriately. Without tracking and managing these changes carefully, CSPs may end up with unused configurations in their network which can clog up the system and increase risk.
The ‘Human-in-the-Loop’ approach to automating billing for CSPs recognises that while Automation can greatly improve efficiency, there may be cases where human judgement is necessary to ensure accuracy and fairness in the billing process.
This can include instances such as:
> Nervousness surrounding Automation in billing. ‘Can we trust the computer to do that?’
> Complex billing situations, for example custom billing agreements. The more complex a billing condition is, the more you need to check it the first time or two it is issued. Human-in-the-Loop needs to be retired after a few cycles of consistent, as-expected performance though.
> Disputes or discrepancies.
To address this, the right automated technology will run these processes, and present them to an operator, who can then go through and validate or action fundamental changes. This usually leads to the human becoming comfortable with automated validation quickly.
Too Much Testing
Billing Automation is at the core of a CSPs’ revenue engine, making it a critical part of their business. As a result, CSPs must extensively test the Automation before rollout to ensure it works correctly. Human-in-the-Loop helps here by offering a ‘sign off’ step as part of testing the Automation.
Be mindful that testing should be a ‘Goldilocks process’; not too much, not too little – it needs to be just right. Too much testing delays the implementation of Automation, thus undoing some of the value, and too little leaves you exposed to potential errors of un-trapped issues, which is equally unhelpful.
Therefore, CSPs need to balance testing Automation and implementing it quickly. Human-in-the-Loop is a guardrail which can be put in place to support of sensitive business processes. Ultimately, it is a judgment call for CSPs to determine when it is safe to implement or initiate Automation.
‘In certain domains, achieving complete Automation may not always be the ideal solution. It becomes necessary to involve human expertise and governance to ensure the appropriate actions are taken at the right time. Combining human interaction with machine interfaces when dealing with significant or important customers proves crucial and invaluable.’
Eddie Watson, Operations Director
In summary, Automated Billing and Revenue Management is pivotal for telecom CSPs, streamlining intricate billing processes and fostering precision, efficiency, and growth. This strategic imperative encompasses lead-to-cash processes, service testing, fraud detection, revenue assurance, and subscriber life cycle management. Achieving the right balance between automation and human intervention, while judiciously conducting testing, ensures billing accuracy, compliance, customer contentment, and sustainable progress in the dynamic telecom landscape.
If you want to find out more about the challenges of Automation for CSPs, download our free eBook A Buyer’s Guide to Automation for CSPs.