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Monday, August 31, 2009

eBilling Found to be Key Non-Price Differentiator

In a recent study, we found that 83% of our customers are able to keep up with their competition by providing an eBilling and analytics solution to their customers. This would lead one to believe that by providing eBilling and analytics to business customers can be a non-price differentiator for any company. By offering key analytical reporting and drill down along with the eBilling software, we have found great success in providing our customers with an even more robust solution than is customary in the eBilling market.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Proteus VoIP QMS: VoIP Call Accounting Solution

Proteus VoIP QMS is a call accounting solution that collects and reports on the call records produced by VoIP telephony systems. These records contain information such as call origination, destination, duration and termination status. Usefully, they can also contain user ID (extension mobility), IP address and MAC address information for users and devices on VoIP networks. Most VoIP systems also provide information about the quality of the calls they process, including metrics such as jitter and latency, as well as the number of packets that were sent, received and lost.

Reducing Customer Churn by Adding eBilling System

eBilling and associated analysis is delivering significant benefits for Service Providers of all sizes, across both their consumer and business sectors. However, the two environments are very different. The consumer marketplace faces particular challenges, not least of which is the reluctance of some customers to adopt an online lifestyle. It has been the reluctance of the consumer sector that has clouded the industry’s perception of eBilling. The business sector represents the more straightforward case – where it is faster to convert and easier to articulate customer benefits. For most Service Providers, the corporate space represents a significant part of their revenue, or it is an area of potential growth in a highly competitive market.

As the Service Provider marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, customers are more willing to exercise their purchasing power. Around 75% of the 17 to 20 million subscribers signing up each year with wireless carriers have transferred from competitive carriers – customer churn. - source: Dunn and Bradstreet

In 2006, the Customer Respect group conducted a survey of UK telecom companies and reported ‘customer churn’ as one of the most pressing issues for the industry.
Unfortunately, there is little consistency in the measurement of churn and, because of the potential impact on share price, rates are sometimes ‘massaged’ to make them appear more positive. - source: Yankee Group

According to Dunn and Bradstreet, annual churn rates for telecommunication companies sit in a range of between 10% and 67%. The generally accepted industry average is around 35%.
There are two big hits associated with churn – lost future revenue and the cost of customer acquisition. Claude Borna, senior consultant in the communications industry, Deloitte Consulting, used to cite customer acquisition costs for carriers ranging between $300 and $600 in sales support, marketing and commissions – and that was almost a decade ago.

In 2001, Yankee Group estimated the cost of acquiring a new client at seven times more than the annual cost of retaining an existing subscriber. Bain & Co suggests a 9:1 ratio. Take your pick.
A recent benchmark survey (2008) of UK Service Providers, conducted by TM Forum, cites frustration with billing systems, especially for mobile services, as a major contributor to customer loss rates.

Benchmarking showed a large gap between the top and average billing inquiry rates among service providers. Average performers logged 16.21% of inquiries as billing related while leading companies reported billing inquiries at 1% of all inquiries. Significantly, good performers in this area show lower customer loss rates with less effective performers showing high loss rates.

The report noted: “Since the largest cause of customer service calls for mobile subscribers is for billing-related issues, investments in streamlined billing plans can generate a good rate of return.”
The McKinsey Quarterly went further, putting a figure to the value of self-care. They suggest that an average increase in customer retention for service providers of 1-2% can be derived directly from online self-care. – source ‘Automated Self-Service Comes to Service Providers’, McKinsey Quarterly, 2005

By using eBilling software and incorporating an eBilling system into their business practices, service providers are able to reduce customer churn and, in the long run, hold onto their existing customer base. The best way to increase revenue for any company is to hold onto existing business while increasing new business. Reducing customer churn is imperative in achieving this goal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What to Consider When Deciding which Call Recording Solution to Purchase

Today’s market is saturated with call recording applications that can record calls for “quality and training purposes”. So, deciding on which system to implement is quite complicated. Many managers would tell you to purchase the most inexpensive solution and that might actually be the right answer, but there are some other factors to consider.

There are a few questions that you must ask yourself before you start your search for the best call recording solution for your business. First, are you looking for a user-friendly solution that anyone can easily access and utilize? Or will this system be operated by an IT expert that would be able to navigate any system out there? It is important to identify which category your company falls into before beginning to search for a solution so you know the right questions to ask.

Another question you might ask yourself before jumping into the investment of a new call recording system is how would you like to retrieve your records? Do you have the internal resources to sift through thousands of call records and organize them for you or would you prefer a system with a search/filter and filing system that will easily organize the archived records for point and click retrieval.

Equally important to consider is the method that your company would want to use to listen to these recorded calls. Would your company prefer to use proprietary software that may make sharing these files difficult in the case of a legal or regulatory compliance situation or would your company prefer to use a free non-proprietary media player that is available to anyone online? Most companies would prefer the non-proprietary media player option as this makes it easy to analyze and send files so that others can listen to and use your files as needed.

Another crucial question to consider is the scalability of the call recording system that you decide to purchase. In other words, would this new system be able to handle growth in your business? If you purchase a system with unlimited scalability, you can rest assured that this system will not have to be replaced as your business grows.

Finally, it is important to ask yourself where you would like to use this system. Will you only need to use this system on premises or would it be useful to be able to record calls in other offices or on mobile devices? Many companies have agents and/or offices distributed all over the world and need to record calls regardless of geography. Many systems available in the market require that you purchase hardware for each location, while other systems are geographically redundant and will support all locations on one system.

Before purchasing a hosted call recording system, it is imperative that you consider these questions first. After considering these factors, you will be in a much better position to make an educated decision about which call recording solution would be best for your business. Every business is different and every business has different needs, so it is important to answer these questions while considering your business’s unique situation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How quickly can the Proteus call accounting solution provide commercial value?

Proteus Enterprise is a call management system that facilitates the management of a company's entire spectrum of communications. Cost savings can be visible immediately through carrier comparison and bill verification, let alone by subconsciously making employees more accountable for their personal telephone usage. Unfortunately, "time theft" or personal abuse of communication facilities is now widespread in most businesses. Most customers realize a payback period of four to six months, after which the cost reductions and improved productivity increase the company's operating margin. Businesses use the Proteus call accounting solution to identify and eliminate unnecessary telecom expenditures, manage employee productivity, stop employee telephone misuse, and identify unanswered calls to key groups such as sales.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's new with CTI Group's Analysis 7 eBilling Solution?

Building on our existing, highly regarded Analysis eBilling software and more than 15 years developing analytics products, Analysis 7 offers service providers and end users even more benefits. We offer unparalleled levels of integration and deployment options for service providers of all sizes. Complying with the “JSR168 standard portlets” can be deployed into an existing portal technology e.g. BEA Weblogic, IBM websphere or open source portals like Liferay. Analysis 7 can be further enhanced and developed by the service provider’s own IT departments or systems integrators. Supplied with an API & SDK, deployment is quick and cost effective, creating a truly unique offering to your customers.
Analysis mirrors the user’s own business structure, so that phone usage can be easily managed. A range of reports are available within the application and are presented as charts, making them easier for users to read and understand.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What is Call Recording Consent?

Because call recording regulations are complicated—and the penalties for infringement strict—it’s vitally important for organizations considering call recording to arm themselves with the knowledge and resources to legally protect their interests.

As a provider of hosted call recording, we wanted to provide some information on the laws of call recording consent.

Call recording consent falls into one of the following two categories:
One-party consent implies that at least one person within the conversation is aware of the call recording—even if that person is the one actually conducting the recording.In all-party consent, everyone within the conversation must be informed of the call recording either by verbal notification or with an intermittent beep. Therefore, if two people are conducting a conversation and a third person joins in, the third person must be notified of the call recording to comply with regulation.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Medical Hotline Uses Hosted Call Recording For Quality and Training Purposes

Renee works for a non-for-profit clinic at a local hospital. They have a 24 hour call line for emergencies or to answer questions after hours. Most frequently, parents call in with questions about their children. If a child has a fever or won’t stop crying, the parent can call the help line for advice as to what medicine they should give the child or if the child needs to go to the hospital. To monitor the service provided by the nurses that answer the calls, the clinic requires that all calls be recorded for quality and training purposes. Since the clinic is privately funded and non-for-profit, large capital investments present a real obstacle. Luckily for this clinic, they are able to purchase hosted call recording through their service provider on a per-use basis, making acquiring call recording much more affordable for their limited budget.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Call Management System Saves Small Trader Organization $46,500

A small UK based trader organization was interested in maximizing their telecommunications investments and identifying areas of possible improvement. First, they wanted to identify unused PSTN and private line circuits. They also wanted to easily allocate voice service expenses and provide historical trending reports on telecom activity. And finally, to better track telecommunications charges to protect themselves from duplicate charges and/or payments.

This small trader organization decided to install a call accounting system to track their telecommunications usage and provide trending reports. The system they chose gives total visibility of their telephone costs and usage. It is the only solution available that integrates dealer board data and fixed line, mobile, internet, email, and voice recording usage, under a single system with secure web-browser. Equally, this call management system is geographically redundant; able to support a single site or a global network of hundreds of remote branches.

This particular call management system was designed specifically for investment banks and to connect with turret and dealer board systems and interfaces with both traditional and VoIP telephony systems. It is crucial for investment companies to get solutions that were created specifically to fit their needs. The turret system integration is the key component in making a really complete call management system for investment banks and trader companies. Equally, finding a system with the flexibility to work with any telephony system makes integration easy and painless for the business customer.

By investing in this call management system, this trader organization was able to immediately identify five unused private wire lines. They were able to terminate these five lines and cease paying for lines that they were not using. Identification of a trunk outage from the LCR operator to more expensive PSTN calls. These PSTN calls are billed at a 15% inflated cost. Due to this outage, the company was paying an inflated charge for these bills. They were also able to identify errors in telecommunications charges from their carriers. This billing error amounted to roughly 5% percent per month. They were also able to identify that they were not receiving the discount structure that was agreed upon in their contract. In all, the company was able to save $46,500 in the first year after implementing the call management system. They were able to recoup their investment in the system in less than 8 months after purchase.

This call management system offered some additional benefits as well. It offered a sophisticated web browser based, dashboard-style interface with drilldown reporting. It also came equipped with highly granular access policies, defined and limited by the system administrator, allowing secure access from any point. And most importantly, it allows managers to evaluate real time statistics on trader activity as it happens – most and least active traders by day of the week, etc.

This small UK trading company was able to realize real returns on their investment in a call management system. Not only did they see immediate returns, but they were also about to monitor their costs and the activities of their traders on an ongoing basis. A call management system can help investment banks and trading companies to cut costs and improve efficiencies with an almost immediate return on investment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Converting from Paper Bills to an Online Billing System

Today, many companies are getting pressure to convert their traditional paper billing systems to online billing systems for many reasons. Whether it be environmentalism, convenience (or inconvenience of sifting through hundreds of pages of bills), or to acquire the added functionality available with online bill presentment, the trend is consistently leaning toward eBilling.

In addition to the above advantages to online billing, there are some other advantages that you might not have considered. For example, with many online bill presentment software packages you can advertise on the online bill. Online bill presentment will also drive traffic to your website, increasing customer awareness. And finally, all bill presentment can be specifically branded for your company as if there were no outsourced billing system, as if it were your internal system itself. Free marketing to your existing customer base provides a significant revenue opportunity to those customers that are already loyal to your company.

For the end user, there are some advantages that you might not have considered as well. Bills are delivered directly to the person that will be handling them – whereas paper bills usually are sent to a general mail box and are delayed in being delivered to the person responsible for processing them. This processing person can also look forward to immediate updates, trending analysis, and monitors that can keep them on top of their bill usage rather than having to backtrack when the bill finally arrives. No more sifting through hundreds of pages of bills…eBilling make bill processing easy and efficient.

Some companies have found transitioning from paper to online billing a daunting task. The providers might have trouble converting some of their business customers to online billing either because they have a current process that includes paper billing or they see no real benefit in switching. Some providers have taken the approach that they will put all customers on online billing and then charge those customers that require a paper bill a small nominal fee for the cost of printing the bill. This works if your customer base is largely comprised of customers that are already convinced to switch to online billing, but could cause some issues if the bulk of your customers are not on board.

Other providers have taken the approach to convert a segment of their customer base to their online billing system. Then, they provide case studies and success stories to the late adopters to try to persuade them to change over. When you are able to provide real numbers as to dollars saved, efficiencies achieved, etc. in real customers on this particular system, it can have some pull in convincing customers to switch over.

The biggest issue, by far, is convincing business customers to educate themselves on the system and think outside their normal processes. It is easy to get bogged down in day-to-day activities, making it far more difficult to see the big picture. It is difficult to see how this new system could save time and money. It just seems like a gimmick to save the service provider money, but the fact is that, in the end, it will save the business customer time and money as well. So, the biggest obstacle in online billing adoption is convincing business customers to learn how to use the product and then to try to think outside their current processes to find a way to incorporate this new software in a manner that can actually benefit them in the long run.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Costs and Benefits to Consider When Analyzing New eBilling System

The trend in billing today is certainly toward online solutions. Many businesses and consumers alike are insisting that their providers offer online options. To that end, many providers are looking for systems to fit their needs and are finding that there is such a vast array of choices out there, it is hard to narrow down which would be the best solution. Sadly, there is not an easy answer to this question.

First the provider must evaluate what its needs are to determine how robust a system it needs. The knee-jerk reaction of most businesses is to strictly compare the cost of the options available. This could prove to be a mistake in the long run. The cost of the system itself is not the only cost to consider. Many systems will help to alleviate some costs that you never even considered eliminating. These cost savings can help to outweigh the initial cost differential. For those companies willing to consider the more robust systems that include bill analysis as well as bill presentment, they will be pleasantly surprised to find how much time and money these analysis tools can save them.

For example, a leading mobile phone provider recently installed such a system. The new eBilling system included both bill presentment and analysis. The eBilling system they were replacing was spread over three separate vendors; eBilling, corporate accounting, and CD export, requiring a dedicated team to constantly monitor the daily data loads. This mobile provider purchased a new eBilling system with bill presentment and analysis which allowed them to cut their eBilling outsourcing down to ONE vendor rather than three. The mobile provider’s requirements were for an online solution to deliver increased performance efficiency, reduce manual report production and to be scalable in order to satisfy the billing needs of both SMBs and corporate customers.

The system that they decided to purchase was not the cheapest system on the market, but after a full analysis of the system, they found it to be the best long term financial decision because of the added benefits it offered to the business.

This new eBilling system allows the mobile provider to offer a comprehensive billing tool with minimum impact upon company personnel. This is achieved by providing an online, customized, formatted solution for bill management. Through the implementation of the one single powerful system instead of three co-existing ones, the mobile provider saves time and effort by eliminating any communication difficulties and stream-lining the service. The new eBilling system offers the customer total control over the management and analysis of expenditure, as well as call details on their mobile accounts.

The ability for customers to create and save customized reports for their business requirements has eliminated the need for the mobile provider to produce specific ones for key accounts, reducing the mobile providers overhead cost for those accounts. The new eBilling system has lead to fewer billing queries, reducing the number of calls to customer service.

Customers also profit from this new eBilling product. The clear presentation of phone usage and the time saved by the reduction of paperwork and administration associated with managing a company’s mobile handling and spend was clear to the mobile customers themselves.

It is important to review all of the possible cost benefits of adding an eBilling system before making a final decision as to which one to purchase. While the initial cost of a system might appear to be less, it may not offer the operational cost benefits to both you and your customer that a more robust system could offer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Call Centers Can Benefit From a Geographically Redundant VoIP Call Management System

Call centers have special telecommunications needs. In order to effectively run their business and manage their employees they need to be able to monitor when agents are available, average queue times, number of calls in queue, and service level in real-time in order to provide the highest quality service to their customers.

Most call centers have turned to call management systems to help them to manage and monitor their workforce effectively. These call management systems offer the ability to monitor real-time activities, such as those listed above, as well as do historical reporting on hold times, accepted calls, abandoned calls, etc. Both real-time and historical reporting are crucial to the ability for a call center manager to be able to effectively manage the success of his/her team.

In the past, these call management systems required that all agents log into the system on site, as these systems were linked directly to the traditional PBX system and could only be utilized on the premises. These restrictions were found to be far too limiting. They didn’t allow the call center to take advantage of the cost savings available by implementing a home-based agent program.

Since the onset of VoIP telephony, the options of call management systems available have really expanded. Whether located in a centralized location or globally distributed, a well designed VoIP call management system can provide all of the real-time and historical reporting functionality previously only available on premise.

This new VoIP technology allows call centers the flexibility to run a home-based agent program, thereby reducing their costs. A manager in Utah can monitor and report on activities of an agent in Ohio as if they were sitting next to each other. A recent Frost and Sullivan research report (“The Hosted Model: Why it’s Revolutionizing the Contact Center Industry”), compared the total cost of ownership for hosted VoIP services platforms to that of premise-based alternatives. According to Frost and Sullivan, a hosted platform will yield a 64% cost savings in the first year, 36% in the third year, and 23% in the fifth year.

While the cost advantages are clear, many call center managers are still skeptical about switching systems. A system change causes so much upheaval in an organization there is no wonder they are hesitant. But, in the long run, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

So, how do these VoIP call management systems work exactly? When a call is completed, these call records are fed directly from the VoIP service provider’s switch into the call management system. Call events from the switch platform are fed directly into the call management systems ACD reporting tool. These call events represent the parts of the complete call detail record including call initiation, transfers, holds, and agent presence. Account information is transmitted to the emPulse ACD reporting system from the switch platform via the web services API.

The call center agent then logs into the application, via a web interface, and are presented with a browser-based dashboard that allows them to view the call events in real-time from the moment the call is initiated, through the queue process, and through call termination. The call center manager can view the status of an agent regardless of the geographic location of that agent. The call center manager is also able report on the historical agent activity regardless of the agent’s geographic location. This makes managing a home-based agent a much easier prospect.

By adding a VoIP call accounting system to monitor call center agents, the call center is purchasing flexibility, free maintenance, and little to no replacement cost without sacrificing the functionality crucial to managing a call center effectively.

Monday, August 3, 2009

CTI Group Call Recording in Action

There are many examples of business regulations and safeguards that require that all calls be recorded and archived. CTI Group offers more flexible options for businesses trying to comply with these regulations.

Credit Card Company Complying with Regulations

Joe works for a credit card company. According to new regulations, all sales calls and calls for collection must be recorded for quality purposes. Joe’s company can either utilize the PBX switches they already have and integrate a call recording feature with this hardware or they can opt to discard this hardware that they have already invested in for a new blanket recording system. Well, obviously, Joe’s company wants to be able to use the hardware they have already purchased, but they need to comply with the new regulations. So, Joe’s company chooses to add the IP call recording function to their regular VoIP service, so they can amortize the expense over a long period of time. The service provider gets to add additional business and to expand their package with Joe’s company and now Joe’s company will be compliant with the new regulation. Win/Win.
Billing & OSS World 2009 ebilling CTI Group Customer Spotlight - Call Recording Call Recording at Metaswitch 2009