The ‘phone’ in smartphone is growing increasingly superfluous.
It almost goes without saying that smartphones these days perform far more than just transmitting voice and text messages from one place to another. They are television screens and mp3 players. They are internet browsers and maps. They are fitness tools and travel guides. Unlimited data plans therefore are one of the most important services telecoms operators should offer to meet their customers’ demands.
With the emergence of this smartphone age, the honeymoon period between customers and their operators is over. What was once a simple, straight-forward and monogamous relationship where the customer received a single fixed telephone line and one invoice a month has changed. It’s now one where operators must offer a variety of services to survive and the customer can make purchases from third parties such as content providers and resellers.
Consequently, traditional Business Support Systems (BSS) are inadequate for telecoms operators. They are not able to differentiate between the data types or what their customers are engaging in to run a smooth, customer friendly service.
Many businesses offer both prepay and post-pay services but they are complicatedly and expensively rated and charged on entirely different systems. This might cause inconvenience for your clients who would still rather have one single invoice for their services and will almost certainly cause you to dig deeper into your pockets.
One way to combat this, however, is by transferring your old, outdated method to that of convergent billing.
This is a system intended to integrate any number or combination of charges into one single platform and, in turn, one single invoice. With convergent billing in place, customers should be able to call their telecoms operators’ contact telephone numbers and get a complete run-down of all the services they have opted for.
For prepaid and post-paid services, it creates one platform for everything. Gone is the extra work needed to duplicate things in your catalogue and configure differences between the tariff plans. What’s more: as you do not have to manage several systems, it’s a far cheaper option too for in times of austerity.
Most importantly though, converging your billing into one place could reduce your time-to-market (the time between a product or service’s conception and when your company is able to put it out to customers for purchase). Whereas a traditional BSS may be slow configuring new products, or even not able to support them at all, this is not a problem that convergent billing is expected to face.
However, operators looking to transform to a convergent billing system must be cautious of how well the billing system can perform. With so many transactions coming through one stream, it’s going to put a significant amount of pressure on the platform. The last thing you or your customers need is too much information passing through the database. This could potentially become too much for the billing system and cause serious problems. If it does, the system a) may not charge a customer until several days after a particular service was used or b) may not allow them to use it at all. Your customer service contact numbers would surely be inundated with confused and angry callers. Worse, you may have just lost significant revenue.
Convergent billing also carries an enormous risk in the sense that it can take time. Some have speculated that implementing a convergent billing system can be a slow and arduous process.
But while there may be anxieties that come with transforming an entire billing system, the fear of the new should not overshadow the downfalls of the old. The way that smartphones are being used is seemingly evolving by the minute, and while the idea of being just a ‘phone’ may be growing increasingly redundant, the last thing you want is for your business to follow down the same path. Convergent billing is an inevitable part of the future for any telecoms operator, promising to not only save cost but also generate revenue. It’s simply a matter of when and how you change.