In a recent interview with UC Today, Soft-ex's Ian Lindsay talks us through multi-platform billing communications and analytics in the age of COVID.
How many times have you heard the words “new normal” in the past six months?
I bet you can hardly count by now. Most businesses have switched almost entirely to working remotely, and going back to a physical office seems like a far-off reality. But there is one rather significant angle of this new normal that is often overlooked: the one of billing communications. More precisely: how the multi-platform work environment forces a new approach to billing, and how the bill itself is becoming – believe it or not – a revenue generating tool.
Two Words: Multi-Platform
So what does this new normal have to do with billing communications?
“The new norm is definitely going to be a multi-platform environment, because everybody is using different things,” says Ian Lindsay, SVP Sales at Soft-ex. “I can have video from Zoom, video from Teams, and video from Cisco. It’s essential that I know which part of that has been used the most, and who’s using it the most. Our partner, British Telecom, did a survey of all their enterprise accounts, and saw a result of about 3.5 UC applications and 2.5 video applications on every laptop. And all of that is getting billed”. Lindsay, like most people, believes COVID has simply accelerated existing processes.
“Certainly, all COVID has done is brought those changes forward quicker,” says Lindsay. “Companies had to implement solutions in order to enable remote working, but they’ve had to escalate that procedure. They’ve had to buy new licenses, and they’re not 100% sure how those licenses are being used. So when you get a bill, the last couple of months, it’s been very confusing. Businesses need digital billing tools that will help them deal with this confusion.”
Billing as a Revenue Generating Tool
How can UC providers and carriers make things less confusing for their customers? That’s where billing communications comes in.
“You need the granularity behind the bill, and partners who are delivering that granularity are becoming almost like a consultant to the customer. They’re being brave enough to actually highlight those changes to their customers, and then sit down with them and make the recommendations that need to be made. These things all lead to customer retention at the end of the day. It’s that granularity that makes the bill a retention tool. It enhances customer engagement and the transparency increases loyalty. When we’re talking about the new UC channels that we see developing, those aren’t only the large carriers,” says Lindsay. “It’s the smaller, mid-sized system integrators that are providing bundles of services to their customers: hosted voice, SIP channels, broadband. They’re delivering an entire service to them. So the question is: how do they present a bill to the customer in such a way that the bill becomes a retention tool, and even a revenue-generating tool.”
Turning the bill into a revenue-generating tool might sound like a complicated magic trick, but in fact, it’s rather simple:
“The provider can use bill analytics to say: Look, your international calls are increasing every month to America, so let’s get you on a better tariff. Or: These are your unused handsets, so let’s get rid of those, reduce your costs, but then look at something else to replace that. And so on and so forth. So the analytics become essential, both for the provider and for the end user. They create that visibility in order to make the bill a means of providing key observations, KPIs that prompt action.”
But how do you manage to provide customers with all those analytics when dealing with multiple UC platforms?
The Solution: Cross-Platform Billing Analytics
"The Soft-ex platform is meant to do just that. One of our unique selling points is, whilst most of the providers out there (Teams, Zoom, Cisco, etc.) have their own basic analytics packages, they will never be able to cater for cross-platform analytics integrated to the digital bill,” says Lindsay. “If you’ve got multiple platforms, you have to be able to determine a standard quality of service, and then report against that across all of those platforms, get an overall picture of your network, rather than just your Teams network or your Webex network."
Lindsay continues, "Soft-ex provides the ability to present multi-platform analytics through a single pane of glass. The Soft-ex solution is meant mainly for the UC providers and the carriers – we sell it to them, so that they can use it to present the bill to their customers. This platform actually allows me to see all of my customers in a single window and profile them. I can see how many handsets they’ve got, what they’re using, which account is up this month, which accounts are down this month. Our ability to do this cross-platform means that it doesn’t matter whether a provider is providing their customers with six platforms or one platform – we will take all of that in and provide analytics across all of those platforms. I think the critical thing about the UC environment is that it’s multi-platform, and always will be multi-platform,” says Lindsay. “No one has committed to a single platform so far. And frankly, I don’t think they ever will”.