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The Importance of Billing Systems in the Telecommunication Industry

Billing systems play a critical role in maintaining the profitability of Telecommunications operators. You may be asking why? The simple answer is that without an effective billing system the network cannot operate. For the billing process to be as effective as possible, it is important to have a solution that cross-checks the billing system. This cross-checking software provides a Telco with the data necessary to correctly bill customers for the services used, which directly impacts revenue assurance, customer experience and profitability. 

Billing Systems

Overview of billing

To understand the impact that billing has on a Telco, it is critical to define what we mean by billing. Simply put, billing refers to the system used to calculate how much a customer owes you. This is a lot more complex within the Telecommunication space due to the number of different elements that billing needs to factor in. Billing impacts every operational level across the Telco business.

A billing system takes into account various network usage data elements to ensure provisioning, billing, usage and rating accuracy. This includes capturing usage records which are usually in the form of Call Detail Records or CDRs, charging data records, network traffic measurements, rating consumption, pricing, taxes, discounts, tariffs, etc. With this data, Telcos can correctly invoice customers with the right amount based on their network usage.

The above is just one element of billing that Telcos need to manage. Telcos also need to effectively manage pricing models, billing configuration data, billing cycle schedules, event triggers, billing delivery channels, audit settings, etc. They also need to cover functions related to payment tracking and processing, correspondence between payments and used services, managing credits etc.

Billing systems today also work hand in hand with Online Charging Systems (OCS). This online charging system links and processes all network transactions. This includes subscribers account balance and charging transactions. The OCS is able to automatically control service access and produce CDR’s in order to enforce account limits and apply the correct charges to the billing platform. The OCS will not allow customers to utilise services if their account balance will not cover the service cost. Both network CDRs and OCS CDRs are required to accurately bill customers. 

From the above, it is clear that the process of billing customers is quite complex. This is especially true when you consider that if billing is not managed efficiently, Telcos will not be able to bill customers correctly, identify problems related to customer experience and uncover issues surrounding revenue leakage, which ultimately impact profitability and business growth.

Types of billing

It is important to mention two specific types of billing that Telcos utilise when discussing billing. The first is pre-paid billing. With this type of billing system, customers need to pay for their services in advance before being able to use a service. An example of this is the use of recharge vouchers and bundle subscriptions which customers can buy in real-time to top up and use as and when they need. This type of billing actually happens before and during CDR creation which allows the Telco to manage credit limits in relation to services used. In this case the service will be cut off when the payment source runs out. 

The second is post-paid billing which is fairly different. With this billing system, customers use a service first and will get a bill in the form of an invoice at the end of their billing cycle for the services they have used. 

The benefits of having a solution to cross-check your billing system

With all the complexities that come with managing billing, it is no wonder that Telcos are utilising technology and software to make this process easier to manage. Telcos are doing this by implementing solutions that cross-check these billing systems. You may be asking how this kind of technology makes this possible? The answer lies in the benefits below:

  • Compare Billing CDR’s and Network Usage CDR’s – this type of system is able to analyse billing CDR’s from the OCS and match those with network usage CDRs to provide a consolidated view of network data usage and what is being billed. This will also allow for the identification of detail trends and patterns with regards to OCS usage.  Armed with this insight, you can bill customers correctly and accurately based on their usage.
  • Reduces Errors Associated With The Billing Process – this technology naturally reduces the chance of human error when it comes to billing. A software solution specifically built for this purpose can dramatically reduce errors, thereby positively impacting customer experience and assisting with cash flow and getting customers to pay without needing to query their accounts. 
  • Provides Detailed Billing Data – with detailed billing data, you can identify discrepancies related to a customer’s account and provide them with feedback faster and more efficiently, enhancing customer experience.
  • Empowers Management With Reliable Data – a fit for purpose billing system provides management with the visibility and insights needed to make informed decisions related to budgeting, forecasting, profitability and more.

How the implementation of a billing system enhances revenue assurance

Billing and revenue assurance work hand in hand. Revenue assurance is a process that ensures that all products and services are billed as per the contract agreements with customers. A Telco needs complete visibility over the different elements that affect billing to manage this effectively. These network elements are usually presented in the form of CDRs, which a Telco can utilise to identify a customer’s network usage. With this information, Telcos can identify any abuses and revenue leakage that could ultimately cost the business. With this data, Telcos can also enhance customer experience, especially where queries related to accounts and invoices are concerned. With a billing system, you can easily access the information needed to give the customer fast and efficient feedback related to their query. The reduced chance of error while using billing technology also means that incorrect charges on customer accounts will be reduced. These elements enhance a customer’s experience and will ultimately reduce customer churn.

Billing and CDRlive

Adapt IT Telecom’s CDRlive platform is a powerful piece of technology that simplifies the complexities of a Telcos billing system and ensures revenue assurance.

This specialised software takes raw CDRs and transforms them into valuable billing insights through reports and analytics that you can access in almost real-time. These analytics assist in detecting billing anomalies, under charges, excess charges and ensuring that customers are billed for what they are using. This information will also assist in the management of customers data use. For example, if they continue to utilise excess data you are able to adjust their plans to account for this which will enhance the customer experience and reduce the shock of large unexpected bills. The CDRlive analysis of billing call records also ensures that customers are on the right plans with the right inclusions and bundles.

Armed with these insights and the ability to drill down into customer specifics, you as a Telco can identify elements related to revenue leakage, data usage, billing discrepancies and more. With this foresight, you can take steps to rectify any identified problems and issues to reduce revenue loss.

This CDRlive technology was recently implemented by a Telco Operator in Africa with 2.6 million active subscribers. This Telco was specifically looking for a platform that would enable them to quickly identify, view, navigate, and investigate revenue leakage related to billing.

The Adapt IT team set to work and utilised CDRlive to identify discrepancies between the service catalogue (what services were being sold) and the online charging system. In this case, customers were being charged less than they should be for their purchased services. This resulted in the Telco experiencing revenue leakage. Through the identification of this issue by using CDRlive, the Telco operator was able to:

  • Identify, investigate, and reduce revenue leakage faster.
  • Access near real-time monitoring and receive alerts.
  • Gain complete visibility over the billing system and quickly identify root causes and problems.
  • Access accurate data and analytics, which allows for empowered decision-making.
  • Increase savings on revenue.

Conclusion

From the above, it is clear that billing plays a significant role in the success of a Telco, especially where revenue assurance is concerned. With the right cross-checking billing software in place, Telcos can simplify the complexities of customer billing, enhance customer experience, and ensure revenue assurance. The question that you as a Telco now need to be asking is, do you have a solution to cross-check your billing system and is it empowering you and your business’s success? 

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