Cutting through the billing clutter

October 14, 2014
4 min read

Let’s face it—telecommunications bills are typically complicated, confusing, and frustrating for consumers. Providers of wireless, TV, Internet and other telecommunications services have taken note of customer frustration with their billing statements. Many have taken steps to better instruct customers on how to interpret their statements, to prepare them before receiving the first bill, and/or to overhaul the statement itself.

Several providers have offered personalized video bills, which walk the customer through her actual bill (rather than a generic description). AT&T was the first provider observed to promote these personalized videos to wireless and U-verse customers via email. AT&T offers the personalized video (powered by smart video company SundaySky), for the customer’s first two billing statements. Since employing the video bills in 2012, AT&T noted “fewer calls into customer care, shorter calls of those that come in, and enormous satisfaction of the customers.” Over the past year, similar personalized video bills have emerged from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.

Some providers offer an interactive personalized bill walk-through, in lieu of an actual video. Bell Mobility, for example, made improvements to its eBill services in 2014, including a Personalized Bill Explainer, which helps the customer understand usage and charges. Bell asserted, “Now when you make a change to your account like adding a feature, changing your rate plan, or upgrading your device, you’ll see an explanation beside each item”.

Guides are also popular among most telecommunications providers to help customers make sense of bills. These, like video bills, are often observed in communications with new customers. Rogers, for example, provided a robust “Quick Guide” with the first billing statement. The mailer welcomes the customer to Rogers, and then identifies key areas of the bill, including components of the account summary, as well as services. DirecTV provided a similar guide to its new customers, as part of its email welcome series. A guide was also included with the first DirecTV statement mailer.

DirecTV, however, has recognized that, even with these explanations, pay-TV billing has remained confusing for customers. In March, CEO Michael White noted, “[Pay-TV providers have] all made our business more complicated than the average consumer understands, and that creates challenges for the bill down the road.” He added that by mid-2014, he planned to “simplify our offer structure” and provide customers with “a two-page bill that you can actually understand.” As a result, DirecTV customers received notifications in June that they would soon receive a “new, easy-to-read bill.” In statement mailers, DirecTV asserted, “We listened to your feedback, so we’re making your DirecTV bill easier to read and understand.” The letter outlined a clearer due date and amount due, simplified overview of monthly charges, and tips and news.

DirecTV is not alone in using customer feedback to help redesign their billing statements. In June, T-Mobile also began notifying its customers, “We’ve listened to your feedback and are working on simplifying your monthly bill. Gone is the clutter and unnecessary information.”

While providers typically highlight their easy-to-digest billing in communications to existing customers, Verizon featured their streamlined billing as a selling point in acquisition mail. In FiOS bundle mailers, Verizon promoted its “clear, concise and easy to understand” bill to prospects. The mailer noted, “In response to requests from our customers, the FiOS bill is simple and scannable—making it easier to find the information you need.”

The streamlining of telecommunications billing showcases the impact consumer feedback can have on provider marketing efforts. If customers respond positively to changes in billing strategies, providers may consider featuring customer reactions within acquisition efforts. These testimonials could help illustrate how specific providers are responding to customers and actively working to reduce frustration, save time, and free their customers from hassle.

For more insights from Mintel Comperemedia, click here.

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Telecommunications Thought Leader, specializing in competitive trends across wireless, TV, Internet and home security industries.

Emily Groch
Emily Groch

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

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