Business customers don’t want a consumer portal

Thereare stark differences between a consumer customer and a business customer. Butwhen it comes to online billing and payments – the one area with significantimpacts to your cash flow – many telecom providers are treating these customersegments as one in the same.

“Butwait, our business customers aren’t using the consumer portal. They have acompletely separate instance to view and pay their bills.”

Thequestion is – does the variance continue beyond the login page? Or are youproviding your business customer with the same online billing and paymentfunctionality as your consumer customer?

Yes,all customers need to pay to their bills but no, the process to do so is notthe same for a family of four and a large enterprise.

Theconsumer payment process is well-defined and consistent across providers andverticals. After the close of the billing cycle, the consumer customer receivesa bill from their telecom provider. They login, view a quick comparison andmove forward with a credit card or bank payment. Or ideally, the account is setto automatic payments – requiring no effort from the customer or provider.

Asconsumers, we’re driven by convenience. Can you make it easy for me to payonline and remind me when it’s time to pay?  Ok, I’m in. A pretty simplevalue prop that most companies have mastered. Hence the rising e-paymentadoption rates that telecoms are now experiencing on the consumer front.

Onthe other hand, business customers are looking for efficiency + detailedvalidation + error-proofing + automation + security + integration +…you get thepicture.

Thebusiness payment process is different for each and every customer. After theclose of the billing cycle (or multiple cycles depending on the telecom’sbilling infrastructure), the customer receives invoices representing varyingservices and locations. In tandem, the customer downloads detailed usage datafrom a legacy reporting tool or receives a file via email.

Thecustomer then consolidates these invoices and additional data into a singledocument, which can be organized according to their Accounts Payable structure.This customer-created view now guides the usage and budget validation,identifying any potential billing errors or inefficient usage patterns. It mayseem surprising but research shows that over 70% of these AP processes areoccurring offline, most commonly in an Excel spreadsheet.

Oncevalidated, payments are then made based on the customer’s grouping of invoices.It’s rare for a business customer to pay all invoices via a single payment.It’s also very uncommon for them to pay each invoice via a single payment. Thisleaves multiple payments for multiple invoices as the common practice.Essentially, the customer pays 4 of 10 invoices with one payment method, 3 of10 with another, and so on.

Andhere’s where the major gap in business portal functionality comes into play.

Followinga consumer-like approach, the majority of today’s business online reporting andpayment capabilities are geared towards a single account, single paymentmethodology. There is no option for organizing or tagging invoices and accountsinto groups to analyze (which is why Excel is still a predominant tool). Thereare no capabilities for applying these customer-defined groupings to guide thecustomer’s online payment process. There is no option for printing a detailedremittance slip to ease the pain of offline payments. And there is no automateddata capture to transmit these multi-payments back to the telecom’s AccountsReceivable system.

Unlikethe very clear value prop of ‘convenience’ for the consumer customer, businesscustomers are still asking ‘what’s the advantage of managing my invoices andpayments online?’

Here’swhat they want to hear:

·        Efficiency– online experience easier than offline experience

·        Detailedvalidation – comprehensive view of invoice and detailed usage data

·        Error-proofing– no re-keying required

·        Automation– monthly allocation of invoices per account

·        Security– viewing and payment permissions

·        Integration– direct connection to ERP system



Sowhat caused this gap between what’s needed and what’s available for businesscustomers?

Adigital transformation…on steroids. The movement to get everything and everyoneonline as quickly as possible has changed the way that organizations operate –both for the provider and the customer. But some providers are now wondering ifthey should have been walking instead of running.

Duringthis transition period, consumer  best practices were applied to thebusiness experience as well. It looks great and it works as designed. But asdemonstrated above, it’s not just about providing online payment capabilitiesbut offering a solution to the disconnect between the telecom’s AR and thecustomer’s AP. In fact for many leading telecoms, providing an ill-fit onlineexperience is actually causing more issues than the offline payment experience.Calls to account reps, thousands of single payments, short pays with noexplanations, hesitance to adopt portal for other tasks – just to name a few.

Businesscustomers have given similar feedback on the reporting and analytics front.Although they can now obtain portions of their detail usage and charge datafrom online portals, very few seem pleased with the comprehensiveness and easein getting the data they need. Without an efficient and consistent way to viewall data, the manual and error-prone ‘traditional’ analysis remain at play.

Thedifferences between consumer and business customers are acknowledged and widelyleveraged throughout the telecom’s organization. Product delivers differentservices, Marketing presents different offers, and Sales employs a differentapproach.

Butwhen it comes for paying for those services, that tailored experience comes toa halt. If telecoms are committed to digital transformation, Billing andDigital teams must collaborate on delivering adigital payment experience that business customerswillhappily embrace.


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