Giving customers visibility

How can a billing solution help channel businesses meet the evolving Ofcom regulations? Harry McKeever, managing director, Tekton Billing, outlines recent changes and how resellers can keep pace.

Ofcom’s most recent update to its General Conditions, which came into effect in December 2021, may seem more like guidelines than rules, but IT and telecom resellers looking to stay the right side of possible fines and keep their brand’s credibility intact should really pay close attention to them.

The latest additions are likely to produce a very real threat to the channel over the coming months and years. These additions include new definitions for ‘bundles’ and ‘microenterprise customers’ as well as new expectations for services offered to end-users.

Put simply, resellers should provide customers with visibility of tariff/bundle consumption, as well as providing customers with notifications when they exhaust a tariff/bundle. This applies to consumer customers and micro/small enterprises (this means B2B clients with under 10 staff).

Together, these changes may not seem drastically different, but this affects almost every reseller in the market with the majority of existing billing platforms struggling to comply.

‘The Big Four’ already offer this functionality as par-for-the-course, and if these industry billing standards, there is a very real chance of resellers being left behind, taking vital money out of the channel and eroding the general trust businesses place in resellers because of their famous ability to offer a higher level of service than ‘The Big Four’!

Thankfully, resellers using Tekton Billing’s platform, ZOEY, do not have to worry. The cloud-hosted solution was always built with the future in mind. It automatically imports and rates usage hourly, displaying this as to close to real time as possible to end-users.

Specifically, Tekton resellers can provide their customers with close to real time current consumption as either per cent, cost, and duration, and comply entirely with Ofcom’s updates providing full visibility of both tariff and bundle consumption, be that individual, shared or aggregated. In addition, ZOEY has two stages of alerts at any per cent, cost, and duration intervals, with complete automated SMS and email alert deliveries further complying with Ofcom’s updates.

Compliant solutions

The Ofcom updates pose a threat to channel business of all shapes and sizes. Firstly, the smaller, more start-up resellers still using spreadsheets and accounting packages to bill their end customers really need to invest in a fit-for-purpose compliant billing solution. Those that do this quickly will be able leverage a competitive advantage and accelerate their short-term growth, which is vital to their survival.

For more established resellers, they are all too aware that these days you cannot just compete on cost alone, they must find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors in other ways, namely customer experience and support.

If resellers can effectively promote the ease of use of their services and how the ability to set limits can help them save money, it will certainly help develop strong customer relationships and satisfaction scores. That, in turn, will create long-term customers that don’t consider cost to be the be-all-and-end-all because of the added support and service they enjoy.

They can also steal sales from larger, established channel players that don’t have the agility to make such massive changes to their internal procedures immediately, and take the fight to the Telecoms goliaths directly!

To achieve this lofty goal, billers need support and the internal knowledge within Tekton that helps them make the most of the platform, which is why the business has focused significant amounts of time, effort and resource into the on-boarding, training, day-to-day support and consultative services.

Fit for purpose

We’ve found that more experienced billers coming from legacy platforms may struggle to perform batch changes across their customer bases due to aging platforms, as well as start-ups using spreadsheet or accounting packages to keep costs low. This means they may not be used to a modern interface or even any at all! That means they need to quickly get to grips with a platform and ensure their workflows are fit for purpose.

Our refreshed Training Portal enables new partners to practice their usual steps using dummy data to work out new workflows and test out functionality, so that they have real world experience and understanding before they start supporting their own customers in their ‘how to’ questions.

They can practice on a wide range of services – SaaS, stand-alone services, bundles and whatever else partners need to grasp – so that best practice procedures can be explored before they’re set in stone.

Furthermore, if billers find themselves stuck, our new Training Academy means users can search for whatever terms they’re looking for, or know from a previous platform, which ZOEY will recognise and surface the appropriate guides. For example, “rejects”, “exceptions”, “suspense” or “unallocated” may all mean the same thing to us, but not to search engines when they’re crawling copy.

This ensures users can find the information they need without wasting time finding the right article or reading through a guide to only find it’s not what they were looking for.

All told, channel operations are facing a triple-pronged challenge in billing right now. Embracing Ofcom’s new guidelines, as well as the constant challenges of maximising margins and differentiating themselves in a crowded marketplace.

ZOEY helps solve them all, and with the ability for custom integrations and additions, on top of the ongoing support from our team, there’s nothing our billers can’t achieve.

This feature appeared in our April 2022 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.

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