Digital Transformation & Maturity

Meaningful customer relationships: Q&A with BriteBill’s CEO Alan Coleman

Sponsored by: BriteBill

BriteBill, an Amdocs company, takes the traditional telecoms bill and converts it into something that is more meaningful, valuable and easier to understand for customers. The company has had considerable success selling into tier one operators in the US and is now making inroads into the European market. In this Q&A, their CEO, Alan Coleman, talks to TM Forum’s Chief Analyst, Mark Newman about the secrets to BriteBill’s success and how the company is seeking to increase its global footprint by developing new products and capabilities.

MN: You were acquired by Amdocs in September 2016. How has the company’s strategy evolved since then?

AC: Amdocs is a market leader in customer experience software solutions and services and is at the heart of the telecommunications industry.  It was a natural fit for our business. Joining such a successful and financially stable company means investment in our product, roadmap, sales and marketing efforts, and professional development.

Our focus is still very much on reshaping the way customer service providers (CSPs) consider their bill as a customer communication and not a revenue collection tool. Since acquisition, we have closed deals with BT, AT&T and T-Mobile USA. This makes BriteBill the de facto standard for billing in North America with Sprint, Rogers, Comcast and now T-Mobile USA all customers. BT is a significant win due to its status in the European market. We are in a good position to continue growing. More than 40% of all calls into call centers are billing related. We are the leaders in this space and have been exclusively focused on this since our inception in 2010.

MN: You have had extraordinary success with the tier ones given that you are still a relatively small company. What do you put that success down to?

We are laser-focused on a customer-centric view of the bill and do not attempt to be all things to all people. Our strategy was to concentrate on how improved communication leads to improved behavioral outcomes, this is a fundamentally different philosophy to the existing offerings. You can’t have digital transformation without transforming the bill.

Perception is reality and we never allowed ourselves to be perceived as a smaller company, there is no question that we are the best at what we do. One of the ways that our customers measure the impact of our solutions is by using the net promoter score (NPS). Some of our customers have seen a nine-point bounce in NPS. We now employ 180 people compared to just over 30 three years ago. Our HQ is in Dublin, Ireland but we also have offices in the UK, Madrid, Philadelphia and Toronto.

MN: Do your customers tend to have very different requirements? How much customization is needed?

AC: Different customers have different approaches. It could be that the outcome they are looking for is more clarity in the billing information or reducing the huge amount of billing-related calls to call centers. Alternatively, it may be that the operator wants to do something about bill shock or customers’ impression that what they are getting as a customer does not reflect what they signed up to.

Sometimes we are asked to help reduce the total number of billing pages or how to help present different brands and integrated services after a merger or acquisition. Blending our billing communication strategy with the brand strategy and promise of each operator always results in a unique experience for each of our clients’ customers.

MN: What exactly can you do with a bill to make it more interesting?

AC: Many service providers still send paper bills from systems that were set up decades ago. These are both static and boring.

Poorly targeted and irrelevant communications are commonly caused by communications silos. The customer experience is being impacted when a promise made by one piece of communication from one department is not fulfilled when the customer then communicates with another part of the business.

But we can now change that by extracting billing data and presenting it on a whole range of different channels. Furthermore, service providers using BriteBill can personalize the bill for each and every customer they have, every month. They can generate a personalized message depending on who that customer is, their usage, preferences, etc. They can, for example, create a tailored message for cohorts of customers that are high-spending, multi-play iPhone users with an offer for when the new iPhone is coming out and what deals are available. This changes the billing communication from being a boring demand for payment into something different, a value statement.

Our recent Consumer Perceptions of Telecoms Billing 2017 survey, which includes responses from 3,200 mobile phone users, highlighted how personalization is key. 50% of Generation Z (16-24) and 47% of Generation Y (25-34) want their information to be more personal and visual. In addition, our survey also found that 59% of Generation Z (16-24) and 56% of Generation Y (25-34) want the bill to tell them how to save money.

MN: How are you looking to evolve the products and services that you offer?

AC: We are experts in liberating the billing data to create communications that are clear and engaging and show the value the customer is receiving from their provider. We introduce new and better communications to help drive cross-sell, upsell and renewals. A lot of this is about using the data that operators already have in an effective way.

Until now, telecoms operators have a huge amount of customer data but it really hasn’t been used in a meaningful way. There are silos within these organizations.  The marketing and billing functions do things separately so data is stuck in warehouses. This is really about mapping out the customer journey, taking a long-term view of what needs to be fixed and then working through the specific issues and points on the journey that can be made simpler.

BriteNow guides customers toward an action, whether it’s making a purchase or providing more information about themselves. We use our skills in information design and combine this with the right tone of voice based on what we’ve learned about how the customer feels, to make it as easy as possible for them to complete the action.

Smoothing out typical ‘bumpy’ experiences around known pain points in the customer journey, such as the first 90 days, is a powerful proposition. The first 90 days sets the tone for the brand’s ongoing relationship with each and every customer. Clear, effective and welcome communications containing the right information builds trust, setting the scene for an ongoing relationship whereby customers will engage, as they believe their communications to be relevant and worthwhile.

BriteBot is our offering in the natural language processing space which acknowledges the importance of voice as a channel. We are tailoring our billing information to be ready for distribution over digital assistants, including Alexa, Siri and Google Home, etc.

MN: How easy is it to find the right person to sell to in each CSP?

AC: All CSPs have silos and it will take a while to break them down. The acknowledgment that customer experience is pivotal is coming into play now but it is very slow. When we talk to a CSP we go straight to the head of customer experience. They now hold the budget.

There is a general trend in terms of changing ownership with customer experience working in partnership with IT and operations. Unless we’re talking about a huge transformation project, CSPs are looking to bring in new vendors like us. This is probably more the case with marketing and customer experience than with IT. When IT is responsible for procurement, they tend to look at whether the solution – and the vendor behind it – fits into their overall IT stack.


    About The Author

    Chief Analyst

    Mark Newman is an analyst with 25 years of experience delivering insights on the future of the telecoms sector to senior level executives and audiences. Mark’s recent research has focussed on telecoms operator business models, digital transformation, service provider diversification, and the intersection between Internet and telecoms. He delivers analysis, presentations, strategy sessions and workshops to global audiences, helping them to plan for the changes that technology and disruptive new business models that will fundamentally transform their businesses. Mark was Chief Research Officer at Informa Telecoms & Media and Ovum before leaving to set up his own research firm, ConnectivityX, in 2016. He joined the TM Forum as Chief Analyst in February 2017.

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