Revenue risk – who cares?

Despite the telecoms industry’s supposed maturity and expertise at being able to charge and bill correctly for any type of service it still manages to make headlines when it ‘stuffs up.’ And it is ‘stuffing up’ regularly!

The latest round of ‘look how telcos get it wrong’ news featured T-Mobile, the ‘uncarrier’ scoring a bulls-eye with claims that it had ‘crammed’ its subscribers and ‘creamed’ millions of dollars from them in the process.

There was also Verizon’s problems with its My Verizon portal that barred thousands of its customers and some of its retail stores from accessing account information last weekend.Users couldn’t pay bills, or get upgrades or activations processed. Perhaps it should call itself the ‘unbiller’?

Of course, I don’t need to mention the countless number of ‘bill shock’ stories that are still generated with great ease, especially around roaming data, that send the messages to all customers to exercise caution when using any network.

Whilst most enterprises try to encourage customers to use more services telcos seem to go out of our way to discourage them and their efforts to be ‘trusted billers’ for others in the digital services space is taking quite a beating with each negative tale that gets published.

Pointing fingers is not that easy, either. Billing departments are expected to be able to bill any new service that is thrust at them, and many have to tape together less than optimum ways of collecting relevant data and then accurately assess the value of them for billing purposes.

Operators are still obsessed with network infrastructure and speed, and their marketing departments with producing campaign after campaign to pull in an ever-decreasing pool of new customers. Surely it is time to step back and take a look at where this is leading, especially in terms of customer satisfaction and retention.

I’m not suggesting that more money should be pushed into the back office and associated business systems but maybe, just maybe, they should get some serious attention. And I’m not suggesting big transformation projects to enhance or replace existing legacy systems; I’m talking here about something far more basic, far more rudimentary.

Surely anything that affects the customer adversely, not just network or service delivery malfunction, is a RISK to the business that is, in turn, a risk to revenue.

Yes, I’m harping on again about the money end of things but, quite frankly, that is the reason for telcos being in business. They are no longer state-funded monopolies that were run as a national service, they are all businesses that run on money and anything that affects the flow of that money determines whether they will thrive, or dive.

Stakeholders are starting to wear thin on the need for speed, and the cost involved in delivering it, and are starting to say “show us the money!” Any risk to that money flow should surely be given equal attention and this means going beyond the usual network management and revenue assurance systems that are already embedded in most operations.

Today’s ‘multi-faceted, multi-play’ operator simply cannot afford to risk any part of its business failing, yet some will tell you they cannot afford to address the issue of risk. What rubbish is this? You can guarantee that they are all insured to the wazoo to cover risk but how much are they willing to spend to mitigate that risk and even prevent it happening in the first place?

The term ‘enterprise business assurance’ comes to mind here, but even the combination and reutilization of existing revenue assurance and network management systems will not be enough to determine where the risk lies. It’s time for a holistic view of the expanded network and IT functions to be adopted and then monitored 24×7. Money well spent? Definitely!

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Tony Poulos
About Tony Poulos 48 Articles
Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, been contributing Analyst for IDC, a freelance writer and is a columnist and video anchor for Telecom Asia. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide.

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