In this interview, Vincent Disneur, Sales & Marketing Director of Union Street, spoke to Comms Business about the latest aBILLity platform developments and how they are helping customers get through the pandemic crisis.
CBM: How has the COVID crisis impacted Union Street?
Vincent Disneur (VD): Supporting our team and our customers has been our top priority throughout the crisis. We made the call to close our offices in London and Northern Ireland in early March, and our IT team transitioned everyone to home working within a couple of days. Union Street employs close to 100 personnel and around 30 already worked remotely. Scaling up existing systems to enable the rest to work from home was relatively simple and, because we’re a software vendor, there isn’t really a necessity for anyone to be at the office.
To assist our customers with their business continuity planning we introduced a service which, in the event of sickness of other emergency, allowed us to take over billing operations on a temporary basis. In addition, we had our Customer Success Managers proactively contact all customers to ensure everything was ok and to see if there was anything we could assist with.
CBM: Is now a good time for partners to be looking at alternative billing providers?
VD: Enquiries from communication providers have really spiked during the lockdown and I think there’s a few reasons for this. First is that the lockdown has provided time and space for many channel businesses to address housekeeping issues, and optimising billing operations always a good way to boost the bottom line.
Second, this experience has woken many communication providers up to potential vulnerabilities. Billing is not something you can mess about with. It’s a critical function for all channel businesses and, as this crisis has demonstrated, one that’s susceptible to disruption. Many resellers have been forced to question whether it’s wise to source such an essential software from small companies with limited resources.
CBM: You recently launched your mobile app for aBILLity, can you tell us about the drivers behind that and the uptake you have seen?
VD: Billing and cashflow is the life blood of any business, so naturally business owners and senior management are keen to have real time billing information at their fingertips. Our mobile app provides just that, delivering a high-level overview of billing activities and access to customer information. This enables management and other personnel that might not have direct involvement
with billing, to access the information as required from anywhere at any time without the need for a PC or to contact billing personnel.
We are rolling out the mobile app in a controlled way and in accordance with appropriate information security precautions. This ensures that only personnel with the right clearance have access to it and that users can request support if required.
We have pre-planned releases scheduled for the next twelve months which will see some exciting enhancements to the app’s features and functionality.
CBM: Billing People seems to be gaining strength, what is the latest with the community?
VD: The community is growing fast and there’s a lot of enthusiasm amongst the membership. Billing professionals are essential in the channel, but they’re often quite siloed, so there’s a real appetite for somewhere to network, discuss challenges, and bounce ideas off each another.
With the largest single concentration of billing expertise in the channel and around 3,500 users of our aBILLity software, Union Street is perfectly placed to found such a community. But we didn’t want to create something that was exclusively for Union Street customers. It’s important to us that Billing People is inclusive for the whole industry, to provide something that all billing professionals can be a part of, regardless of what system they use.
Our ultimate goal is that with the community’s support, the organisation will become selfsustaining and that eventually Billing People will mature into its own distinct entity.
CBM: You recently took on FourNet, how is Union Street helping them address the blue light market?
VD: As we all know the peak of the infection put the emergency services under tremendous strain. The blue light sector has always been prioritised but, due to the unprecedented circumstances, it became essential to provide additional levels of care for WLR3 faults and orders.
FourNet work extensively in the blue light sector and their people have a great deal of expertise in provisioning. They provided some excellent feedback and recommendations for how we could better manage escalations for the blue light sector in response to the pandemic. Many of our customers address this market and have also benefited from these changes.
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