In a slightly surreal session at the recent ETIS Community Gathering in Budapest, the Billing and Revenue Management group decided that consumers no longer want bills. If they ever did. The discussion title was ‘bill formats and the opportunities for customer experience.’ During such a session, which you would be forgiven for thinking was about bill formats and the opportunities for customer experience, came the throw away line, “of course, consumers do not want bills anymore.” It came from an operator.
Having climbed back onto our chairs, we continued the discussion, which was focused on the Enterprise sector (of which more later). Having concluded that Enterprise customers are indeed more likely to pay quickly if the bill is clear and particularly if it matches their internal process for checking bills, a hand was raised. It trembled slightly.
“Sorry, but did you say that consumers do not want bills anymore?”
“Absolutely, of course consumers do not want bills anymore. It is too much trouble. What they want is to look at their bank statement. If the amount is about what they expected, they are happy. If it is different they want to pick up the phone.”
“So, all those years of thinking about how the bill is the only real touch point with customers and it should be harnessed better for cross sell and upsell opportunities were a waste of time?”
“Yes. Pretty much. We found this out by accident almost. We have a high percentage of online billing and their was always input from Marketing, with clever ideas for offers and such like. But it was too much trouble for customers. They got an email or a text saying that their bill was ready in the portal and not many went to look. What was interesting was that the percentage of calls to our call centre about billing was quite high.
“Then, one bill cycle, the text to customers saying their bill was ready to view in the portal did not go out. Several days later, I met a guy from customer care who was confused because the percentage of calls about billing was virtually zero. We then found out about the text not being delivered. So customers only think about the bill when they are told about the bill. Very very few call us to say they haven’t received a bill.”
It was slightly unnerving to sit in a billing session, having watched and discussed billing for over 20 years and discover that the bill is redundant.
But the bill is redundant.
A bill will always have a negative impact. And nowadays, telcos have a list of email addresses for their customers that – quite soon – will be close to 100 percent. So, if you want to offer them something, you can send them an email, why would you send them a bill.
The operator in question is doing some further research by scrapping the idea of lodging bills in a portal and simply sending a pdf of the bill once a month. He is pretty confident that very few will complain and he is even more confident that very few will view their bill. He is getting back to us on the results.
For many years, there have been a few in our industry that have held this view about the bill – you know who you are.
So, if the bill is redundant – or dead – what is the new ‘billing’?
“Payments,” said the same operator, “payments is the new billing.”
Having got over the shock, we rest our case.