There are many important aspects of running an ICT reseller, and one of the most important is undoubtedly billing.
Making sure your clients are invoiced on time and with accurate figures can be tough, especially for businesses that are rapidly scaling up their product portfolios and/or customer base.
The challenge of billing is why many channel businesses look to use a telecoms billing software, such as aBILLity by Union Street.
But with many telecoms billing platforms to choose from, you may be wondering how to choose the perfect one, or even what telecoms billing really is?
Well, we’ve created this handy guide containing seven key questions to ask to pinpoint your ideal provider.
Let’s take a look.
How Secure is Your Client Data?
Keeping client data secure is vital for any business.
Especially when it comes to billing software, where financial information is often stored, a data breach can have huge consequences for both your business, and the businesses of your clients.
What you need to be looking for when trying to find the right telecoms billing software provider is some independent verification of their information security management systems. For example the ISO27001 certification.
This is an international standard that specifies strict controls for information security management and procedures. If a provider can show you that they are certified as compliant with this standard, they’re a safe bet to keep your data secure.
You should always request physical evidence of this and, in the case of Union Street, we are always proud to provide proof that we are the only channel billing provider to have achieved compliance with the ISO27001 standard.
What Hosting System Does Your Billing Provider Use?
Staying on the topic of security, it is important to ask what server infrastructure a telecoms billing provider is using.
This is the platform on which all of your data will be stored, and therefore something old and out of date could be putting all of that at risk.
If you don’t get proof of a trusted server (at Union Street we use the state-of-the-art Microsoft Azure which offers comprehensive security, availability and disaster recovery features), then you could soon find that your data is being hosted in a way that puts your business continuity and/or information security at risk.
Your hosting server could be a world-renowned piece of software with hundreds or thousands of people working to maintain it, or it could be run by one person in their garage, and this difference is why it is vital you receive concrete information before signing any agreement.
How Well do You Know the Telecoms Billing Provider?
This may seem like an odd question, but it is important that you know the provider well.
I don’t mean you have to learn about every individual that works there, but gaining a grasp on financial stability, company ownership, how the telecoms billing system works, and more will be very beneficial in the long run.
If you don’t ask these questions, you could end up partnering with a telecoms billing provider that is not the right fit at all, wasting lots of time and money in the process, as well as potentially putting your business, supplier, and client data at risk.
There are many ways you can learn more, but it’s always a good idea to start with looking on the website of the business and gaining an insight from there. It’s also a good idea to look on Companies House to find out information on financial stability and check the provider isn’t operating at a loss and at risk of going out of business.
If financial stability is important, working with a provider like Union Street which is backed by a £2bn group turnover, can help ease your mind that the future is stable and bright.
It’s also a good idea to ask industry colleagues. If you constantly hear a business name coming up as you do research and conduct meetings with various telecoms providers, that often means they are the leading provider and definitely worth taking a closer look at.
What are the Plans for the Future?
Speaking of a bright future, the last thing you want is to keep swapping telecoms billing software as one becomes outdated.
Knowing what the plans are for the future provides considerable help when deciding on the billing provider for you.
The technology used in telecoms billing is constantly changing, and what you need is a provider who you know is going to keep up to date and has a solid plan for the development of their telecoms billing platform.
Don’t be afraid to ask the size of the development team (Union Street has over 60 members in ours) as a small team may not be able to handle changes as quickly.
You also need a company that is not scared to invest in their future.
At Union Street, we know the importance of constantly developing our software, and that’s why roughly 30 percent of our income revenue goes on just that.
If your provider doesn’t want to invest, they may get left behind, and you could end up stuck on a telecoms billing platform that is out of date and costing you and your business.
This also includes cost optimisation reporting, in which a billing provider estimates the usage for the future. A billing provider shouldn’t be making their partner pay for services that they don’t use, and that aren’t up to scratch. This is why choosing a provider that is passionate about cost-optimisation is important and could save you plenty of money in the future.
What if Something Goes Wrong?
In telecoms billing, just like with everything else in the world, things can go wrong. This is inevitable, but what is important is you and your billing provider’s reaction. When you need to speak with your provider about an issue, or simply for advice, you must be able to reach the right people quickly.
Almost every business in any industry will boast an outstanding customer service, however, these claims can be quite subjective and unqualified, with reality frequently falling short of expectation.
Ideally a provider should be able to back up their assertions with independent verification from an industry body such as the Institute of Customer Service. The Institute provides assistance and support to its members to help them achieve and continuously maintain the highest standards. It also regularly audits its members, surveying their staff and customers to provide an objective assessment of how their service measures up.
An independent assessment from an organisation such as the ICS should provide you with reassurance that things will be dealt with in a professional and efficient manner should they go wrong.
At Union Street, over 80 customer service professionals are available to handle any issues, and that’s one of the reasons we have been awarded with The Institute’s ServiceMark, the highest standard of ICS accreditation. We are proud to show this to potential partners as we are the only UK billing provider at this level.
Do They Have Proof of Their Telecoms Billing Prowess?
There are two fundamentals when it comes to telecoms billing.
One is that it must be transparent, and that you must produce invoices that are clear for the client.
The second is that it must be accurate, and all figures must be meticulously calculated so as not to charge any client too much or too little.
But how can a telecoms billing provider prove that they are capable of fulfilling these requirements?
Well, Ofcom has put a technical standard in place called the Total Metering and Billing Systems Direction, and this is there to showcase that a service provider has all the right systems in place to deliver bills to customers that are accurate and transparent.
It takes into account a provider’s tariffs, bills, and risk management policy, and only awards the best in the business. Approval for the standard is mandatory for communication providers with a relevant annual turnover in excess of £55m though smaller businesses can voluntarily seek approval.
Union Street is the only billing provider to have been approved for the TMBS directive, and so if another billing provider claims to do so, make sure you ask to see concrete evidence.
How Easy is the Telecoms Billing Software to Connect to Other Platforms?
Back office integration is vital in the modern world.
Most businesses now use a wide range of different software packages, which can make integrating a new one time-consuming and arduous.
When it comes to billing software, what you need is a billing provider that can integrate its solutions into your business quickly and automate data transfers between all software to make calculating accurate bills a doddle.
Make sure your billing provider has comprehensive APIs from which it can integrate seamlessly into your software. For example, at Union Street, we have a full suite of REST APIs which should be adaptable with your current software, and any software you use in the future.
Ask to see all current APIs, and any that are on the roadmap for the future, along with performance data for each to get a great insight into just how easy integration will be.
Union Street’s Telecoms Billing Platform
If you’ve read this article, and you are about to take the first few steps on your quest to finding a new telecoms billing provider, then why not start with Union Street?
We are the UK’s leading provider of telecoms billing software, and our aBILLity platform has won numerous awards for providing flexibility, scalability, and ease-of-use to hundreds of businesses around the world.
Want to know more?