To get ahead of the ever-growing competition in the telecom industry, Telecom providers need to deploy a cutting-edge software solution to cover their Telecom billing process, which needs to support quote-order-cash business process. Telecom billing should be timely and accurate; this would ensure that your clients or subscribers are happy and retained. A bad customer experience can lead to a reduction in organizational revenue and loss of market share. A few examples of international telecom service provider companies include T-Mobile, Verizon, Vodacom, Telemach, and all these organizations uses State of the art Telecom Billing systems.
Telecom billing is a process deployed by telecom service providers in collecting consumption/ usage information to calculate billing for clients’ service use. The billing process also includes receiving and recording of payments from the customers. Telecom billing makes use of Software systems for automation. Telecommunication providers must get their billing system right else they stand to lose their clients. Sending voice, data, SMS, internet, picture, fax, etc., from one point to another using electronic media using various transmission medium such as wire (Copper), Fiber Optics, Ether (wireless), Radio Towers, Microwave, Satellite is the simplest form to explain what telecommunication is.
Criteria to Consider in choosing a telecom billing system
A telecom billing system should be scalable and should be able to handle different services, including complex billing scenarios such as bundled packages of data, voice, text, and VoIP. The system should be flexible and be able to handle different services, including pricing and rating. It should also have the capacity to add new telecom billing plans to suit trending usage patterns.
Integration. Billing platform should come with API’s to connect and to integrate with existing or new 3rd party tools such as CRM, order management systems, or an ERP system to gather information.
These are high-end software tools that provide extensive functionalities and flexibility. They function primarily in the collection of money from the customers, and they are viewed as account receivables. They also serve as accounts payable as they serve as inter-carrier settlements. This is when customers use services from other telecom organizations for long-distance calls, roaming, or others.
The essential function of a billing system include
• Payment processing. The system accepts payments and post it into the individual’s account.
• Rating & billing. Produces monthly bills by rating the product or service usage of the client
• Disputes and adjustments. The system automatically records customer’s complaints and disputes related to their bills or service usage then creates a refund plan where necessary in other to settle disputes.
• Discount applications: This is a process of devising various discount schemes by the system in other reduce customer churn and attract more customers / increasing market share.
• Multi-currency and multilingual. For organizations that have a presence in various geographical locations Multilingual and multiple currencies, support is required
• Products & services. This involves providing flexibility to maintain multiple products and services and sell them individually or in packages.
• Pre-pay and post-pay services. No matter what your plan is the system supports it
Telecom Billing Types
There are several telecom billing types, but we would take a look at the major once.
Pre-paid Billing: This is a billing system where subscribers pay in advance before using a service. If you don’t pay first, then you can’t use the service. For this billing type, no invoice is issued, and the customers are billed in real-time.
Post-paid Billing. In this billing system, customers use a service before paying for it, which is usually on a monthly basis. Invoices are generated with a due date and sent to the customer to make payment.
Interconnect Billing. This is also known as partner settlement. It’s a billing system in which the telecom operators are fully responsible for services provided to its customers by other telecom providers.
Roaming Charges. It’s also called roaming billing. This is applied when a subscriber foes from one network operator’s coverage to another operator. The charges would be paid by the first network operator, and it’s usually a marginal charge.
Convergent Billing It’s a modern billing which support all the previously mentioned billing types from pre-paid, post-paid, to roaming billing. To support that convergent billing needs to rate & charge usage-based events in real-time.
How Telecom billing system work
Telecom billing systems are a set of enterprise-level software tools used to automating telecom billing process, helping organizations reduce cost and improve billing accuracy. From the moment you buy a subscription from a telecom service provider, the system starts working. Telecom billing system architecture should enable it to track your account type, whether pre-paid or post-paid, and other vital information for billing. It essentially integrates many aspects of the customer’s usage and performs the task of imparting billing services for a vendor.
Wireless communication providers, telephone service providers, cable and satellite Television companies, Mobile virtual networks, Internet Services providers, and lots more all use these software tools in automating their billing process. It offers various billing features, including recurring payments, credit refunds, discount coupons, reporting, and analytics. Telecom billing software integrates with third-party software, tax engines, hardware, networks, and payment gateways. Most of them come with an API that allows third-party software to connect with them to create custom reports, and perform bulk processing operations.
Billing System Requirements
A telecom billing system is an integration of various components. A good billing system should be robust and provide a range of functionalities and flexibilities such as
· Customer Management
· Credit Control & Collection
· Multilingual Support
· Multiple Currencies
· Partner revenue management
· Auditing & Security
· Enabling convergent view of customers and products.
In telecom billing architecture, there are various ways vendors charge their clients; however, subscription and usage charges are the two major ways.
Usage Charges. These charges apply only on service utilization. For instance, if a client uses data of 5GB his charged based on that.
Subscription Charges. These charges are usually applied on a monthly basis. For example, you would be charged a fixed amount whether you make use of the service or not.
Clients may be charged for installation and maintenance irrespective of the plan
What to Look for in Telecom Billing Software
There are a wide range of telecom billing software vendors today, and its imperative that you critically analyze telecom billing software before making your choice. It is crucial to carry out requirement gathering and feasibility studies to ensure that the system meets your organizational needs. Please consider the following factors.
Is the system Scalable? Is the billing software scalable? Can new modules and functionalities be easily added? This system should be scalable so that it can be regularly updated to meet business dynamism and also meet the latest industry regulations.
Can it be integrated with third-party software? Can it be easily integrated with other third-party software like CRM, Enterprise resource planners, and order management systems through Application Programming interface? This is necessary so that the telecom billing software can gather information from third party software for proper billing and integration of payment gateways.
Is the system easy to learn and use? Would you require a large sum of money to train your employees on the use of the software? The software should be easily used with minimal training in other to save cost and time. It should come with an excellent UI (User Interface), which would deliver an exceptional user experience for your customers and employees.
Consider Pricing Options. A good telecom billing software should be flexible in terms of pricing. There should be a one-time license option and a subscription-based pricing option. In a one-time licensing option, organizations should be able to make a one-off payment for the license forever wile in a recurring based model; organizations can purchase the software for a specific duration and make renewals after the expiration.
Cloud-Based, Hybrid, or on-Premise software? Cloud-based system is proven to be a better solution than on-premise software. With a cloud-based system, information can be accessed from anywhere and on any device. It enhances collaboration; organizational information is more secured; it’s scalable and usually offers a reduced cost compared to Hybrid and on-premise software.
Billing Platform for the Cloud Era
Most of the communication service providers have on-premise billing, which has been installed by the vendors or system integrators. Telecoms need to maintain it, patch it and doing upgrades from time to time. However, with cloud telecom billing this effort is not needed anymore and telecoms could focus on other areas such as integrations, CRM, or business.