How billing systems can grow your business

Nick Jarrett, Head of Revenue Management & Billing at 9 Group

Making time to analyse and understand your billing data is absolutely critical to maintaining a profitable customer base. By using your billing software to monitor data trends, you can stay a step ahead and adjust your offering to help protect and grow margins.

Customer behaviours are constantly evolving but the pandemic has accelerated change in a way that we could never have predicted. Businesses across the board are under pressure to understand and respond, and there is real pressure to diversify revenue streams to protect and grow margins. There’s an increased dependency on data, to help present insights and inform decision making.

An example in our channel is changes to call pattern trends. As business travel has reduced and calls over SIP are on the rise, there is less demand for roaming. Naturally this has led to a dip in profitability which may never return to where it once was. But what can Partners do to combat this?

By using billing software to monitor change, proactive Partners have reshaped their commercials to fit with the current climate. In order to address the decrease in revenue generated through roaming, data focused bundles and offerings have seen unprecedented uptake, with unlimited plans becoming increasingly rare with value identified in ‘top ups’. In this example, a domino effect triggered by COVID travel restrictions has resulted in a permanent shift in the way that customers behave. This demands a change to what Partners sell and how they position their solution.

There are many other examples of risks to revenue just like these, which could easily become data driven opportunities, if they are identified early.

Billing systems are designed to identify and map changes around customer behaviour and usage. Shrewd Partners will lean on this for regular commercial intelligence, rather than simply using their billing software as a mechanism to issue invoices.

How will the ongoing evolution of billing systems continue to bring customers ever closer to resellers and drive revenues? 

From the customers’ perspective, the role of billing software is to manage the seamless presentation of complex billing data – they want a single bill which arrives on time and is clear and accurate. But billing needs to be so much more than simply a processing function. There is opportunity for Service Providers to deliver a real value add, by supporting Partners and their customers with the entire Managed Billing and Support wrap. 

Our billing and provisioning systems are fully integrated and provide a seamless passthrough to ensure a high level of accuracy. By developing a more automated approach around sales and order management, we are looking to present Partners with information to encourage new sales and up-selling opportunities.

With regard to the evolution of billing; integration capabilities, speed, insight, and increased intelligence are areas for innovation in the future. Ensuring that billing systems are open and transparent, so that data can be read and interpreted, and that customer led change can be implemented swiftly.

How does the evolution of big data, business intelligence and analytics fit into reseller businesses from a billing perspectives?

A primary role of billing software is to offer transparency around the profitability of the products Partners sell, and to present areas for potential margin growth. Organisations with strong analytics capabilities are thriving.

By having access to billing software with strong analytics capabilities, Partners can begin profiling their customers to inform targeted sales and marketing campaigns. Increased intelligence around customer behaviour leads to more intelligent and relevant conversations, which in turn will encourage stronger customer relationships and increase sales.

What key monetisation strategies does billing software enable to boost revenues and market share during the cloud market transformation?

Organisations are continually on the look-out for new revenue opportunities. Identifying changes to customer behaviours allows Partners and Service Providers to get ahead of risks and opportunities, so they can be addressed well ahead of impact.

Partners are seeing less revenue and margin from pence per minute calls – the trend towards bundling and fixed price billing has been on the rise for a few years, as proactive Partners have made the step towards a more holistic communications offering. Many Partners are beginning to take advantage of the convergence between the IT and telecoms sectors, this is reflected in not just what they bill, but how they bill it.

COVID has reinforced that recurring revenues are essential; there is strength in predictability. Having the right balance of products can bring stability – don’t overlook those products with smaller margins and monthly revenues.

There was a real spotlight on recurring revenues during the early days of the pandemic, but this can be just as critical in less extreme situations, such as when seasonality affects call revenue.

What can the channel expect from you over the coming year or so in terms of bringing innovation-led business growth to resellers?

Our focus is to continue to equip our Partners with access to the billing functionality they need, in order to uncover data insights. Our aim is to support Partners to protect and increase revenue.

Other areas of focus include automation and building more API’s. Onecom’s acquisition of 9 brings wider capability through an extended team of development experts as well as new technologies and resources that can support our mission.

Finally, the human element of billing should never be overlooked. Partners should look to their Service Provider for a more human level of support, beyond the processing and production of their customers’ bills. This can include follow up support, the management of customer billing queries, commercial insight and helping Partners to make sense of their billing data. 

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