Bill shock initiative too late for some customers, even as solutions arrive
October 24, 2011 - Openet
Whether it is a telco in New Zealand overcharging 97,000 customers for broadband, caused by errors in a broadband meter solution; or a class action suit in Minneapolis,over allegedly unclear and inaccurate tax calculations, the shock continues. With even tech savvy editors not immune from huge roaming charges and the headline grabbing story of Celina Aarons in Florida who ended up with a phone bill of over $200,000 - $195,000 in roaming charges, the problem of improper – or at least incongruous – billing continues.
U.S. carriers and the FCC recently announced proactive measures to address the issue – proactive in that they hope the move will head off law-making addressing bill shock concerns (CP: Industry heads off regulation by announcing 'bill shock' antidote).
Still, telcos must not sit on their laurels and hide behind the ‘we’ll get there, soon we will have to’ approach. They must adopt the ‘we are ahead of the curve, and have the best customer satisfaction scores in the universe’ approach.
There have been many announcements recently of tie-ups, partnerships and solutions that address the bill shock problem. One such is recently announced partnership between supplier of service optimization and revenue generation solutions, Allot, and provider of Service Optimization Software, Openet.
The pair’s 3GPP-compliant offering combines granular traffic detection and analytics with usage and content-aware charging capabilities. The solution enhances existing prepaid environments into next generation networks and subscriber services, the companies said.
The recent FCC-CTIA guidelines are a step in the right direction for the industry, a step towards providing customers a better user experience, said Mike Manzo, Openet chief marketing office. However, they are just that – a first step – and what is important is “not just that operators send one-time alerts when customers approach their usage limits, but that operators also allow customers to self-select thresholds for alerts prior to - and after – they have exceeded any threshold,” he said. “This type of solution should be convergent across voice, data, messaging and content services, such that users can set alert thresholds by service or across all services. This level of personalization and user experience has been absent from the operator market to date.”
Asked by Connected Planet whether the newly announced solution with Allot would stop the situation in which Celina Aarons from Florida found herself (with a $200,000 bill), Manzo said “this is precisely one area the solution addresses. Customers should be able to set thresholds for spending and/or usage as well as actions to be taken when those thresholds are reached or exceeded. Latency between roaming operators in delivering usage records is still a problem but those processes will improve as operators move toward real-time charging and rating.
“Real-time monetization solutions, combined with next generation policy management and enforcement and new standard interfaces such as the S9 interface, will drive a trend towards better customer management,” Manzo continued. “The S9 interface enables two policy deployments to interact so that policies can roam with users.”
Faced with both regulatory and business pressures to increase the pro-active communications with their customers, telcos have a world of opportunities to offer and these will increase as the pressures increase and the solutions allow them to stay ahead. The next step should be to give the control of alerts and thresholds to customers.