Telco billing data – waste of space or BI gold?

Telecommunications billing data has always been hard to access but telcos missing a trick in not making this information more accessible to businesses?

Telecommunications billing data has always been hard to access and therefore manipulate. In fact, quite a few clients of mine still have boxes of paper bills sent to them each month.

Those who do receive the information electronically are confronted with thousands of lines of complex data and codes which can take weeks to understand and interpret. Then you have to manipulate it.

What’s frustrating about the whole scenario is that there has been no concerted effort from any telco to not only make this data more accessible, but to turn this data into something valuable. You only need to look at Google Analytics to see what value can be created from a decent business intelligence interface.

So, lets say that the nut is cracked, and you can get your billing information in an accessible format, what are the benefits?

Here’s a look at the three opportunities that currently exist and two potential opportunities that have very real consequences for HR and sales.

  1. What is the optimum product and service mix? We know that there is plenty of wastage in company networks, especially in relation to fixed lines. For example, there has been so much substitution of fixed line calling to mobile calling. As such, fixed line networks are increasing in capacity. Where an ISDN 20 may have been necessary once upon a time, an ISDN may suffice as the mobile phones provide extra calling capacity. The only way to ascertain the capacity is to use the billing data to look at all calls that are being made at the same time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  2. User Spend Levels. Is it better to go for a one-size-fits all approach or have a multitude of plans which are designed for each user? Importantly, call patterns and data usage are determined not only by the job and role an individual has, but the device they have access too. The effort required to find a plan per user is often viewed as complex and time consuming, leading to a line of best fit approach. What this means is that business is not only missing out on cost saving opportunities, but missing the opportunity to put the best devices and access to the most data into the hands of those who will use it for efficiency and growth.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  3. Asset Management – the telco industry is a fast moving one and every business has to work hard to keep on top of its plans and hardware. Within that, at a micro level, each business must move quickly to keep on top of what services it has ordered, cancelled, who has started, who is leaving and who is going or has been overseas. The billing data can tell you who has what service and is using, or not using, calls or data from a telco. This is always an opportunity to get better alignment between your users and the access fess you must pay telco. Someone still needs to make a decision on taking action, but at least all the information can lead you to a positive conclusion one way or the other.                                                                                                                                                                          
  4. HR – From an HR perspective billing data can be used for many facets of business intelligence. These applications cover quite a bit of ground, from the forensic examination of who called who to location analysis. The forensic examination aspect is a really interesting one and has been important for poaching cases where a client has poached a staff member or intellectual property protection where it can be shown that a staff member was talking to a competitor. Meanwhile, location analysis, where mobile phone calls are often tagged with metadata such as where the call originated, can be used to track staff who are “sick” (where they actually at Bondi Beach when they live in Hornsby) and for tracking staff (such as drivers) who may go off the beaten track for personal jaunts – putting companies insurance at risk should something go awry. People are often nervous about the “big brother” implications of this data, but it is my firm view that this is company owned data and mining it, and staff movements, are not by themselves necessarily a breach of privacy laws.                                                                                                                             
  5. Sales – So someone is a sales gun, or someone who should be a sales gun is well off the pace. Why? Perhaps the answer lies in their calls. How many people do they call, how often, how long do they spend on the phone, how long is the time between meeting and follow up, how many follow up calls do they make. There are no silver bullets in sales, but surely it is worthwhile to see what your top performers do in terms of calls and what the bottom performers do? Have you ever looked at the time deals close? Are people more receptive to cold calls on Friday or Wednesday? These questions may not have an answer yet, but if you could find a few nuggets of gold, then it will lead to better productivity and efficiency.                                                                                                                     

With all of these activities, understanding and organising billing data is the starting point to a business intelligence journey that can improve productivity, process and efficiency and reduce waste and cost.

Tony Simmons is the managing director and founder of The Full Circle Group, an independent telecommunications consultancy firm focused on Telco expense costs and management. 

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