Billing systems aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about successful telecom providers. But they should be because they can handle the most complicated billing cycles without breaking a sweat.
And we’re going to prove it to you. We will take you through the billing cycle from start to finish, showing you exactly how telecom billing systems work. In order to provide more clarity, we will be using a fictitious communications provider who just set up their first telecom billing software. We will call them Squak. Through this example, we will show you how Symphony Billing can make the entire process as easy as pie.
How Telecom Billing Systems Work at All 5 Stages of The Billing Lifecycle
Stage 1: Order Management
Welcome to stage one – purchasing a product.
When an order for a new – or additional service – is placed, the billing system jumps into action. It gets everything ready for customers to start using that service, whether it’s adding a new virtual phone number to their account or a new user to a UCaaS platform. Once that’s done, the billing system tests and activates the service.
Once the service is set up, the system runs through the order again. This time it makes sure all the information is complete and accurate. This includes verifying important details like:
- The requested services (“Did you say one phone line or three?”)
- Billing information (“Is the credit card we have on file still accurate?”)
- Any special features or options (“Would you like this number to be text-enabled?”)
Once everything is confirmed, the billing system fulfills the order by connecting the activated service to their account. Now the customer can start their new services ASAP.
Stage 2: Call Capture and Processing
Now that the services are ready to use, it’s time for stage two – when the customer starts using the product. While “product” can mean many things, let’s keep it simple. Let’s say the customer is making a call on the virtual number they just purchased.
It begins when the customer makes a call on their new number. Squak’s network ensures the call reaches the intended destination without any hiccups. The call begins.
During the call, the network creates and collects a “CDR” or Call Detail Record as the call progresses. Think of it like a snapshot that captures essential information about the call:
- Numbers involved
These snapshots are then passed to the billing system once the call is completed. This automation reduces human error significantly.
Stage 3: Mediation and Data Transformation
When CDRs and other customer data come in, it isn’t organized or formatted. It’s a whole bunch of numbers, codes, and letters that must be translated into billable services. Thankfully, systems like Symphony have a built-in mediation system.
What is mediation? It is a process that does four important things:
- Collects and organizes data from different parts of the network.
- Adds extra data the system might need, like location details or call type.
- Double-checks it for any signs of fraud (high call volumes in a short period, calls with abnormally short durations, etc.) so it won’t be passed “down the line.”
- Transforms raw data into a single, unified format – making it far easier for the billing system to work with in steps 4-6.
How telecom billing systems work is that they entirely automate this process. Instead of manually reviewing and formatting each CDR, AI-driven algorithms gather, sort, and reformat for you. Now that all the data has been gathered, examined, and put in order, it’s time for step 4.
Step 4: Rating & Charging
After mediation, the data is sent to the rating engine for processing. It takes each “event” (like a long-distance phone call, an outbound text message, etc.) and calculates how much to charge the customer for that event.
Here’s how it works:
- It accepts data records containing information about calls, such as date, time, duration, calling, and called parties, and checks for duplicates to ensure accuracy.
- Then it identifies the customer account associated with the event source (where the call/text originated from) and verifies if that account exists.
- Once the account is verified, the engine determines the price of the event based on the customer’s current rate plan (aka “tariff”) or other specific parameters.
DID YOU KNOW? Tariffs (aka “rate plans”) are the rules and rates set by the telecom company for different services. One example of this is billing by call duration. If the current rate for a customer’s call is $0.001 per minute, the rating engine will review the length of the call and charge accordingly.
- Suppose discounts are offered (like initial free minutes or reduced rates during certain times) and applicable. In that case, the rating engine will apply them.
Calculations complete, the rating engine then stores the charges until a date Squak sets. It could be the end of the month or the end of the quarter. But once that date hits, the engine sends all its information to the invoice generator.
Stage 5: Invoice Generation, Distribution, & Payment
It’s time for Squak to send out invoices. Here’s how telecom billing systems work to make that process as effortless as possible.
First, the data system takes all the financial data it saved and calculates the total amount each customer owes. This includes taxes, applicable discounts, promotions, etc. Once that’s done, the system formats all relevant information into a standard invoice template.
With Symphony, you can either upload your own templates or use our library of options. It automatically personalizes each invoice, adding the customers’ brand, company address, and even colors.
Now that the information is presented clearly and accurately, the billing system will automatically send the invoice to the right customers based on the information they provided. Most billing systems will allow customers to pick their delivery method, whether it’s via email, online support portal, or in the mail.
Systems like Symphony can even process customer payments. Whether customers pay automatically with a credit card or via wire transfers, they can instantly settle their bills from the invoice via an online link. No fuss, no muss.
Bonus Feature: Revenue Assurance & Reporting
Revenue Assurance and reporting is very important yet often overlooked. This is something only a few telecom billing systems offer. But thankfully, Symphony does.
Symphony’s billing system uses advanced algorithms and meticulous processes to compare the revenue Squak is receiving with the company’s expected revenue. Any discrepancies or errors found during this process can be quickly identified and fixed. Thanks to this feature, Squak gets the correct revenue it deserves, reducing revenue leakage and boosting its overall finances.
But that’s not all. Symphony’s billing system also generates detailed reports and provides in-depth analysis of financial data. Having access to this data is vital for providers like Squak because it helps them:
- Understand their revenue streams
- Spot usage trends
- Identify areas that need improvement, and ultimately
- Make smarter decisions for long-term success.
That extra level of detail will help providers like Squak stay competitive in such a fast-paced industry.
In a Nutshell
As you can see, the billing cycle is a complex and intricate process requiring attention to detail and vast industry knowledge. A robust billing system is essential for anyone looking to get into the telecom space. It enables you to efficiently – and automatically – manage the entire process from start to finish. Doing so will lead to less stress, fewer invoice errors, and a better customer experience.
Save the Day with Symphony Billing
Ready to streamline your telecom billing processes and maximize revenue? Contact Symphony today and discover how our advanced telecom billing system can simplify your operations, improve accuracy, and drive business growth!