I often think that good telco billing systems are the strong silent type. While they sit in the background quietly doing their job, they are a near ‘invisible’ part of the industry. Yes, telco billing systems are one of those things that you don’t notice… until something goes wrong!
However, when billing systems go bad customers get upset and the media spotlight can be difficult to avoid. Over the years telco billing system failures have been responsible for court cases and questions raised in Parliament, not to mention a lot of unhappy customers!
A few months ago, criticism of Vodafone’s billing project alleged that it was running late with huge cost overruns. What a surprise! How could this be? A 50% cost blow-out? And all this for a system that just produces phone bills. How hard could that be anyway?
Oh for a dollar for every time someone’s asked me a question like that.
Telco billing is hard. Damn hard. All those CDRs, all those rate plans, all that processing. On the billing scale of complexity, telco is right up the top. We run billing environments with some of the wildest schemes anyone could think of, all in the name of acquiring and keeping customers. Come to think of it, we have probably contributed to this by helping our partners design these very plans.
And that’s just the billing side. High-end billing systems (like the one referred to in the Vodafone article) are usually composed of many systems: mediation, CRM, financials, OSS and, oh yes, billing. And whatever you spend on all of those individual systems, you at least spend again putting them together!
Yes, it’s a complex world in which we live, and it’s only going to become more so. We are sitting on the edge of an explosion in the number and types of services offered over mobile phones – including mobile TV and internet, new content and m-commerce applications.
However, as the world becomes more complex, customers are demanding more and more simplicity and transparency in their telco billing.
Often the simplest and best-presented bill you see has the most complexity sitting behind it. As we move towards the future, the trick is going to be to keep the complexity in the billing system and out of the bill.