A survey commissioned by BriteBill, a provider of billing and communications software for utilities, communications and media providers, has revealed that although service providers are moving at record pace to innovate, a significant engagement channel – the bill – is often overlooked in their digital transformation strategies.
Predictably competition is a major driver for this innovation. However, the study of 40 Tier-0 and Tier-1 service providers across EMEA, North America and Asia, found that 63 per cent of service providers now say their biggest challenge in the next 24 months is competing with new, non-traditional rivals. To combat these digital native industry disrupters, the strategy most service providers intend to take is to differentiate through an improved customer experience (88 per cent), whilst also developing new products (90 per cent).
Although this demonstrates a commitment to a more customer-centric business model, less than half (48 per cent) of the 40 Tier-0 and Tier-1 service providers surveyed felt that their customers were currently the main beneficiaries from digital transformation efforts. This shows that while service providers are improving IT and processes, these innovations are often not directly linked to customer experience improvements, delaying benefit realisation. This is further reinforced by the fact that 50 per cent of the survey respondents said they needed to increase their investment in customer experience.
“To capture maximum digital transformation benefits and achieve full return on investment (ROI), service providers need to harness and capitalise on both operational and customer engagement innovations,” explains Teresa Cottam, Chief Analyst at business performance research and advisory firm Omnisperience and author of the report.
“Service providers face conflicting investment demands, from upgrading their networks to creating new revenue streams and enhancing the customer experience, which can take years to show value. However, they’re beginning to realise that by focusing resources on customer experience blackspots such as on boarding processes and billing, they can make a more immediate impact for often modest levels of investment.”
When it comes to billing as a customer engagement channel, the study found that bills continue to be one of the most persistent customer experience issues. Only 23 per cent of service providers currently feel their bills are a strategic asset to their company, with the majority (75 per cent) saying their bills are not evolving in line with their business. To improve the billing experience in the next 24 months service providers are focusing on four key areas: increasing automation (100 per cent); providing more clarity and advice to customers (75 per cent); personalising information and offers (38 per cent), and communicating the value of services delivered (23 per cent).
“Service providers told us that making bills more intuitive is a necessity, with 95 per cent believing it would significantly reduce calls to care from frustrated customers. As they bring new products to market, service providers are challenged to clearly communicate these services and their value. Failing to do this effectively puts service providers at risk of feeling the sting in the tail of their own innovation,” warns Cottam.
The research also revealed that 50 per cent of service providers intend to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) to improve customer experience in their call centres and reduce call waiting times, but Cottam cautions this is not a cure-all. “Billing inquiries tend to be too complex for today’s AI to deal with. It is therefore essential that service providers tackle the root cause of the problem in the shape of unclear bills.”
“It’s good to see that service providers understand the importance of customer experience to their digital transformation and innovation programs,” said Becky Byrne, Head of Product Management at BriteBill, an Amdocs company. “However, in the rush to transform their businesses, many have completely overlooked the bill’s role as the most common and critical customer touchpoint. Improving and innovating their customers’ billing experience is one of the most tangible ways service providers can communicate the benefits of digital transformation and innovation. This in-turn transforms bills from dull financial statements into strategic customer engagement tools.”