Accenture queried executives at 100 telecommunications carriers and senior managers involved with billing processes at 100 businesses across Europe, North America and South America to determine if providers were meeting their customers’ expectations in billing and how that affects customer loyalty. Accenture conducted the research during a time when increased competition, shifting customer demands and the challenging economy have created a climate that demands superior customer service — especially for enterprise customers, who account for a major part of carriers’ business.
The survey revealed that 10 percent of enterprise customers switched providers because they were dissatisfied with the way their billing was managed, especially when the carrier was unable to resolve a problem quickly and easily. The findings also showed that enterprise customers and carriers disagree on the importance of a key aspect of the billing process: efficiently resolving inquiries about bills. In fact, the survey revealed that customers were seven times more likely than providers — 84 percent versus 12 percent — to say that efficiently resolving billing inquiries is very important.
According to the survey findings, enterprise customers were three times as likely as telecommunications carriers – 27 percent versus 9 percent – to say that carriers fully understand their customers’ billing-related needs, pointing out a further billing-related disconnect between customers and their providers. More than half (56 percent) of carriers said they did not measure enterprise customer satisfaction regarding their experience with billing, although eight out of 10 carriers said they recognize that they have work to do to deliver easy-to-understand bills to their customers.
“Particularly in the current economic climate, it’s truly surprising that more attention isn’t being paid to billing, which is probably one of the most frequent and consistent communications a carrier has with its customers,” said Rob Purks, a senior executive in Accenture’s Communications organization who leads its North American billing group. “Carriers that don’t take full advantage of effective billing solutions — which can help them spur revenue growth, increase customer retention, reduce operating costs and ultimately fend off competitors — are in effect leaving money on the table.”
The survey also found that the 15 percent of carriers offering customer portals, such as self-service websites, lack key capabilities such as enabling customers to view their payment history, download their billing detail offline, or access a single bill for bundled services. About half (54 percent) of enterprise customers whose carriers offer a customer portal said they are very satisfied with the experience the portal delivers.
About one in seven carriers (14 percent) said they could improve their performance on specific billing functions. Among the areas they identified for possible improvement were making bills easy for customers to understand, providing multiple ways for customers to pay their bills, efficiently resolving customer’ inquiries about their bills, and billing for bundled services — i.e., providing a single bill covering Internet, telephone and television service.
“Carriers must align their billing processes with their enterprise customers’ wants and needs,” Purks said. “Ongoing, quantitative and qualitative customer research aimed specifically at billing to gain a better understanding of what customers want and value in terms of billing, and paying more attention and capabilities to supporting the needs of enterprise customers, are the first two steps to take in that direction.”
According to Purks, the adverse effects of the lack of advanced billing capabilities don’t stop at customer service and potential loss of subscribers. “Almost one-quarter of the carriers we polled said their billing process slows their product introduction process and makes it difficult to react quickly to marketplace developments. Especially as competition grows, convergence gains momentum, and the economy remains uncertain, carriers must quickly deliver new services to their customers and serve those customers with excellence if they expect to manage through these tough economic times.”
To identify the importance of billing-related customer service issues to large enterprise telecommunications customers, Accenture queried executives at 100 telecommunications carriers, as well as senior managers involved with billing processes at 100 Fortune Global 500 companies, in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The survey explored several billing-related topics, such as the importance of billing to the customer relationship; what aspects of billing were most and least important to enterprise customers; how carriers were performing on these aspects; and the use of portals in enterprise customer billing. The online survey was conducted in August and September 2008. For more information, see www.accenture.com/BillingSurvey.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With more than 186,000 people serving clients in over 120 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$23.39 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2008. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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 Achieving High Performance in Telecommunications Through Superior Billing:
Carriers’ and Enterprise Customers’ Perspectives, November 2008