Best Practices for Enterprises: Solving Billing Errors Starts with Account Management

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From the moment you make a new B2B sale, a series of downstream processes are set in motion. The initial onus lies with your account management team to accurately set up the CRM record with proper deal terms—MSAs, price schedules and amendments. It’s a critical first step for ensuring a completely informed sales relationship.

It’s just as vital for informing the important series of revenue processes that follow. This includes order management, provisioning, billing and more. If any one of those processes can’t access the right information to set up their customer actions correctly, your organization will fail to fulfill revenue expectations tied to that commercial relationship.  

For telecom and colocation companies, the initial account set-up is only the beginning. The real complexity comes into play with MACDs. These frequent—even daily—requests to move, add, change or disconnect a product or service create huge potential for mis-entered or mismanaged changes to the commercial relationship.

Wrong rate card, missed ETF/change fees, wrong service order or missed customer discounts—all of these and more can cause big errors that directly impact your account management team’s efforts to achieve the account revenue plan and your billing team’s ability to maintain accuracy with every invoice.

Avoid MACD-induced billing errors and lost revenue

Move a product/service.  Revenue risk: A fee type or quantity gets misapplied, or the move is not recorded as a change to the relationship, so your billing team over- or underbills the customer.

Add a new product/service. Revenue risk: The new product/service is installed without proper negotiated pricing, configuration requirements, install fees or service levels. Maybe it’s never even amended in the agreement, so it’s never billed. 

Change to accommodate customer requirements. Revenue risk: Change fees are missed, change restrictions are missed, incorrect service level is applied, or the change is made to the wrong product or service. 

Disconnect an asset. Revenue risk: Disconnect is not recorded in the relationship or asset management system, so you continue to bill for those services, or the wrong products or services are disconnected.

At-a-Glance Playbook: Identify and fix the breakdowns that lead to billing errors

A billing analyst often creates their own heavy-lift manual method to find, interpret and compare the latest contracted terms and entitlements against what product or services are actually billed. That would be hard enough. But they’ll also need to reconcile the differences between the contract and the billing system in order to determine how to permanently correct the errors.

In our experience working with telecom enterprises, we see seven key points of information breakdown that often lead to errors that often start at the account management stage. Here are those seven points and proven steps you can take to solve the problem at the source and maintain that accuracy long-term:

1.  Customer Set Up. Once you enter the post-signature distribution process, it’s essential to establish a complete, accurate Commercial Relationship Baseline. The Baseline is derived from the terms you have agreed to with your customer—the products they agreed to purchase, key renewal or termination dates, related and in-effect contractual pricing, special terms and conditions. We use the Baseline to populate fields in billing, and reconcile information immediately to detect and correct errors.

2.  Customer Change Management. The Baseline must be updated continuously as MACD activities happen, so that any discrepancies or missing documents can be identified and addressed quickly. This cannot be a one-time initiative given the frequency of MACDs in your large commercial relationships. It’s paramount to implement an ongoing process that maintains the Baseline on a daily basis.

3.  Product- and Bill-to-Contract Mapping. The proper billing accuracy solution will include a reconciliation engine that matches price, product, entity and location. As exceptions are flagged, you should be able to develop additional rules to reflect modified nomenclature and repeat this process on a daily basis.

4.  Application of Conditional Logic.  It’s important to convert the contractual language that defines the business logic into rules. A solid reconciliation engine applies these rules, and keeps them updated as changes occur. This way, you’ll know that account management and billing teams are always speaking the same language.

5.  Misapplied Complex Pricing Structures. To avoid pricing mis-steps, you’ll need to map the products in the contract to what the customer has actually consumed, and apply the most up-to-date rules to determine the expected price. 

6.  Non-uniformity of Billing between Products. It’s critical to establish the Commercial Relationship Baseline at the asset or product-level. This way you can capture all variables required for billing and associate them with the product, so as to map to and reconcile within multiple billing systems. 

7.  Billing and Audit Team Workload. In reality, your billing team simply can’t afford the productivity drain of finding and applying this information every day. Maximum efficiency requires an automated reconciliation and audit process that can identify exceptions with ongoing precision. This increases your audit coverage while focusing your team’s time. 

You can see how a manual attempt at addressing these seven points could be a serious drain on your sales and billing teams’ productivity. Fortunately, it is possible to automate Baseline creation and maintain the ongoing updating, mapping and auditing process. You can ensure your teams are fueled by the most up-to-date and actionable commercial relationship information at all times.

A win-win for finance and account management

The accuracy, compliance and revenue assurance of your commercial relationships ultimately rests with your billing team and their ability to deliver an accurate bill every time. But in order to have the right data to drive that process, sales operations and account management teams must ensure accurate, timely input of relationship terms and MACDs.

Implementing the right solution requires a symbiotic relationship across these two key areas of your organization. When addressed holistically, the result is a win-win for all, including your customer satisfaction level and lifetime value.

Take a closer look at Pramata’s Billing Accuracy solution for telecommunications companies. Or if you’re ready to take the first step right now toward ending the vicious billing error cycle, let’s talk!