Stop Talking About Billing and Start Thinking About Commerce

Jennifer Kyriakakis

As Telco’s transition from a world of billing primarily for network access, to layering in content and personalized services – even creating an open market place for digital products – they need new capabilities.  In today’s mobile economy, the future for Telco’s is commerce – an experience that is more in synch with the way consumers today are shopping for and buying digital services.  


Why Digital Commerce 

Commerce is the the activity of buying and selling on a large and continuous scale, connecting buyers, sellers and suppliers together to incorporate the whole value chain in the exchange of products and services. In contrast to the narrow focus of billing – historical tracking, management and collection of revenue – digital commerce is about continually selling products and services to engaged customers. From a capabilities perspective, digital commerce means bringing together direct marketing, online sales, customer loyalty and rewards, digital service delivery, and ecosystem enablement, into a single platform with the buyer experience at the center, and the mobile app as the most crucial retail ‘storefront’. 

From a capabilities perspective, digital commerce means bringing together direct marketing, online sales, customer loyalty and rewards, digital service delivery, and ecosystem enablement, into a single platform with the buyer experience at the center, and the mobile app as the most crucial retail ‘storefront’.   


Digital Commerce IS what Billing can never be 

For decades, Telco’s have been trying to get better at billing, and trying to make it less painful for customers.  But it is still a primary driver of customer complaints and operator costs.  Trying to ‘fix’ the bill by making it more visual and interactive, or making it easier to understand by defaulting to unlimited pricing are tactics that only scratch the surface of the problem. For customers and Telco’s alike, the bottom-line is that Digital Commerce can where billing can’t. Here’s why:  


A Better Operating Model 

Digital Commerce brings together traditionally disparate functions around product lifecycle management, customer engagement and service delivery. By removing barriers between the customer engagement layer, the products and billing layer, and the network and service delivery layer, it enables the Telco to use the mobile app as their strategic storefront.  The result is streamlined, low-touch, automated processes for customers to find, buy and pay for services.  This enables Telco’s to unwind themselves from the tangled web of systems, operational work-arounds, manual processes, and regulatory requirements that define billing today and shed the need to try and put everything a customer has done over the past month onto a single document.   


Stronger Customer Engagement 

Tying customers to a monthly bill cycle has its place.  But trying to cram every last bit of potential customer spend into recurring ARPU severely limits the ability to find new revenue opportunities.  By disaggregating products within a model of commerce, customers can buy and pay for things off-cycle, on-demand for shorter periods of time, services they might not commit to in a contract or on a monthly basis.   The Telco then has mechanisms by which to be constantly interacting with customers; and by ditching the forced bundling and product catalog models that Billing uses, digital commerce enables granular tailoring to individual customer wants – giving operators a new tool to earn customer satisfaction and find new sources of revenue.  


Creating Customer Value 

Customers feel good about spending money in exchange for ‘saving time’ and ‘instant gratification’. Getting one big bill at the end of the month that you don’t necessarily understand is the antithesis of both.  At the heart of digital commerce is real-time transaction processing. This enables Telco’s to tie service usage more directly to spending, so that customers can make the connection between how they are spending and the value they are receiving in return.  All purchases and consumption are immediately exposed, giving customers the visibility to spend what they want, when they want it. It’s great for customers because placing them in a position where they have complete control and awareness of their spending is empowering. It’s great for Telco’s because customers can literally connect the value of their activities, an hour on YouTube or a check-in on social media, to how much it is costing them. The result? From an emotional perspective, spending is directly tied to the satisfaction of the experience, NOT to the monthly bill. 


The future is Digital Commerce 

While billing and the operating model it forces has stood still, the digital world has raced by.  

Which begs the question: How is it that, in the age of mobile, Telco’s are still requiring their customers commit to a billing cycle at all? In today’s world where a consumer can order a customized pizza from their mobile phone and track its progress from kitchen to doorstep, why is it that same customer still has to commit to a pre-determined, monthly, fixed plan? 

In a world of digital commerce, because there is no need for a ‘bill’ in the classic sense, checking detailed charges at the end of the month, and ringing the call center with questions, goes away. Regardless of whether you are a contracted customer or not, service set-up is as simple as downloading an app and entering payment details. Plans are massively customizable, whether through offerings of up-front purchases, recurring subscriptions, or combinations of both.  Data can be bought stand-alone, or bundled with content and other services; and, when running low, ‘topped-up’ however the customer chooses. Access to purchase histories, as well as account activities and balances, is instant and always up to date.   


It’s time to take action 

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about the death of billing. So let’s stop talking about billing and start focusing on the digital commerce capabilities that are defining the mobile economy across other industries, and are redefining the experience of customer value. 


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