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Research: Bills should be effective comms tools

July 15, 2020

Research from telecoms analyst firm Omnisperience and digital bill communications and analytics specialist Soft-ex has found that 84 per cent of communications service providers (CSPs) are planning to invest in more effective customer communications in the next 24 months.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, CSPs played a vital role in keeping both enterprises and households connected, particularly as working from home increased dramatically under lockdown, adding to demands on networks, with increased streamed entertainment consumption on top of home schooling. But as life begins to normalise, they are now focused on what comes next. Two key factors are turning their attention to the importance of improving their bill communications:

  1. There’s an urgent requirement to help customers understand and regain control of spending. Business customers need to analyse what they bought during the crisis phase, how useful it has been, and whether they still need it, in order to optimise their spending and get OPEX back under control. Likewise, many consumers and SMEs are facing financial pressure and need to review and revisit their spending, or renegotiate payments. Transforming static bills into interactive, personalised and dynamic digital communications enables CSPs to meet such customer expectations.
  2. Support for innovation. More advanced digitalisation will see 5G and FTTP connections, WiFi 6 and a whole range of exciting new services rolled out. But there’s a sting in the tail of innovation. Customers need to understand their spending on new and unfamiliar services, as well as the effect of more frequent changes to packages. If bills don’t clearly explain this, confused customers will ring call centres for explanations.

“During the Covid-19 crisis, businesses bought whatever they needed to keep the lights on,” advises Teresa Cottam, Chief Analyst at Omnisperience. “Now they have to get their OPEX back under control, which means CSPs have a vital role to play in providing critical insight into customers’ ICT spending.”

This is a pressing issue, says Cottam, because legacy bills often aren’t clear or don’t provide all the information customers need. In fact, 75 per cent of respondents to Omnisperience’s research admitted that customers had to resort to contacting overworked call centres because they didn’t understand their current bills.

“CSPs have spent billions transforming their operations, but this key piece of the puzzle – bill communications – has been overlooked, despite bills being one of the most important touchpoints with customers,” notes Grainne Magfhloinn, SVP Business Development & Marketing at Soft-ex.

The good news is that CSPs are committed to doing better – telling Omnisperience that Covid-19 has not slowed down their transformations. In fact, 75 per cent said it has speeded up digitalisation efforts, with 84 per cent revealing they intend to invest in more effective communication of charges.

“When customers call about their bills, it often turns out the bill is correct but the customer doesn’t understand it,” reveals Cottam. The result is a negative loop of frustrated customers, higher customer care costs and unhappy customer service staff – which had led to high employee churn rates in call centres. Lack of investment in this area has made it hard for CSPs to provide the type of digital experience and level of customer care they aspire to.

But this situation is set to change, because CSPs are well aware of what’s at stake, meaning that in the next 24 months:

  • 84 per cent will invest in improving bill communications
  • 92 per cent intend to improve or add analytical and reporting capabilities
  • 75 per cent will introduce self-service bills
  • 83 per cent will improve the look and feel of their bills.

This is great news for customers, CSPs and their staff, according to Cottam. “Better bill communications is the foundation of successful digital service provision and healthy customer relationships. It creates a virtuous circle of happier customers, lower support costs and more fulfilled staff who spend less time fire-fighting and more time being creative and enhancing the experience,” she observes.

“CSPs have known they need to fix this for a long time, but they’ve had so much to do that it kept slipping off their to-do list,” agrees Magfhloinn. “Now they’re facing huge and continual changes in their commercial relationships and they know they cannot delay improving their bill communications any longer”.

“A lean approach to Digital Transformation advocates focusing on where the customer perceives the most value,” adds Cottam. “As CSPs shift from a customer acquisition mindset to one of retention, bill communication becomes vital to building a healthy, engaging dialogue with customers. Our research shows that this is driving investment in this area, enabling CSPs to transform customer experiences and deliver the experiences their customers expect.”

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