ABOUT THE CLIENT
This is a case study of a multi brand, multi country product company with much of their business based on answering services catering to different sectors like Call Centers for businesses and franchises, Live Call Answering for Legal and Medical fields, business phone systems and a lead qualification service.This client also encompasses multiple apps and tools that help in remote, collaborative working of teams with tools such as Workforce Tracking Tool, Video Calling App, Appointment Scheduling App, Chat Support and IVR for businesses etc.
Other areas included products that help with employee training, helping teams communicate online when working remotely and a customer communication solution that allows you to analyse web traffic, build relationships with visitors, and improve customer satisfaction.
All and all, they have a multitude of offerings providing solutions for effective communications in different areas of business.
The client required a billing and revenue management system that can cater to different requirements coming from a variety of products. There was a bit of unknown area in terms of how the requirements would pan out in future. There was a need for a flexible, customizable system that can manage multiple brands in multiple countries, with different currencies and different taxation structures.
Most of their offerings or products are subscription based and require usage charging with plans, bundles and included minutes for various kinds of calls or usage. Their customers are primarily businesses so it involves B2B selling. They engage with agents who are involved in selling these great offerings, and need tracking of their commissions based on the sales achieved.
For the brands that encompass answering services, each customer may buy multiple subscriptions. For example, a business in the US may buy 150 toll free numbers from the US based brand and use these 150 different toll free numbers for different purposes. This will lead to call traffic for sales inquiries, technical support on different numbers. All the calls would be answered by live agents, and these calls are tracked, mediated and charged. The process of CDR upload (Call Data Records upload) was to be centralised through a unified job for all brands.
This client needed to integrate the billing system with their different platforms and brands. The integrations involved talking to their customer portals, provisioning systems, mobile apps and different product platforms themselves. The functions such as mediation, invoicing, charging (payment collection), ageing are to be directly handled within the billing engine, whereas the provisioning (integration with physical infrastructure or networks) is handled by the client’s systems.
Although mediation is centralised, the billing and collection processes were to be driven and executed brand by brand due to different branding of businesses in each country. The multiple time zones at play meant that billing operations were always going to be a challenge. The client’s preference was to have all subscriptions prepaid as they slowly moved all their brands to monthly anniversary billing, which means billing jobs to be executed on a daily basis.
The client chose the Enterprise jBilling platform as their billing system because of its flexibility to handle the complex billing use cases and its ease of customization. It is very easy to extend the core functionality or change the default behaviour in multiple use cases by simply adding a new plugin for the desired functionality. The Enterprise jBilling system also provides support for customized usage charging through its billing mediation module.
The billing department lead on the Client-side explains – “We were looking for a responsive, flexible billing system which can have API capabilities and provides complete visibility to us in the back end operations of the system”.
The project started for our team with the launch of an on-premise system in the year 2015. The project involved data migration by creating accounts, services (subscription orders), historical invoices and payments and starting all accounts with a postpaid balance. All the services started as postpaid services and over the years were transformed into prepaid subscriptions with postpaid usage charges.
The system was ported over to the jBilling Cloud system hosted by jBilling in mid 2017. For the last 6+ years, the client has been adding new brands and functionality to jBilling. About 20 new features were developed in jBilling to meet the custom requirements from the client.
A total of 20 brands are live as of today. These brands/offerings have been mapped as entities or companies into jBilling, using the out-of-the-box ‘Company Hierarchy’ feature from the product. Some of the products, plans and offerings are maintained in the parent company in a centralised manner, whereas some other offerings are specific to the brands and managed directly from the sub-companies.
A typical ‘Answering Service’ plan bundles with it a free trial period, a discounted price on the plan if subscribed for a period of 1 year or more and a set of toll free numbers. You can choose additional bundled products such as IVR, Chat or Quick Response Service apart from choosing the basic service of Live Call Answering. An inventory of toll free numbers is maintained in the system.
All the Products and Offerings of the client are mostly falling under the SaaS service and are online software platforms that integrate with jBilling as the background billing engine. The client uses most of the functionality provided by jBilling. They are really happy with the configurable options in the system. Explains the Billing Ops lead “Almost all the functionality within jBilling is configurable. We can get to choose and pick which features to enable and which not, giving us a great deal of flexibility”.
A live answering service comes into effect when a call is made from an interested party to the Client’s tenant, the call is tracked for the duration and recorded into a CDR (Call Data Record) file by the client’s system. The CDR files are fed into the jBilling system and processed via a unified Job Launcher, which is common for all brands. This Billing Mediation job is configured in the parent company, however the job identifies the brand based on the toll free number and applies the usage on the relevant customer account of the brand.
There are different usage types such as Live Call Answering, Chat, Quick Response Service and IVR. Each of the usage types is configured as part of the product catalogue and included minutes are provided for them as part of the plan. A Mediation Rating and Increments feature allows incrementing and rounding the call quantity based on different increment and rounding rules, which can be specified for each brand differently.
For example, provide an initial 30 seconds free, round up any duration from 30 to 60 seconds to 60 seconds, round up or down to the closest 30 seconds or a minute etc. This feature provides the ability to increase the revenue for a service with minimal configuration changes.
As these interesting new features started getting developed and rolled out, the client saw the benefit of investing into new ideas and rolling those out quickly with the help of our expert team. Both the teams worked closely together, almost like they are part of the same team, driven by a common agenda and the same mission.
Another interesting feature of this implementation is the ‘Plan Swap’. The system studies the pattern of usage of the client and makes a recommendation of the plan upgrade or downgrade to the customer, with a highlight of how much amount they would likely save by upgrading or downgrading the plan. Once the ‘Plan Swap’ is triggered, it initiates the re-rating of the usage charges and re-calibrates the included minutes on the new plan. This allows the customers to save their cost, till minutes before the billing time. This feature helped our client to retain its customer base despite competition and further expand its services and offerings.
The client started with about 3 brands in the year 2015 and till 2023 has 20 different brands/offerings. For each offering, they made a different branded invoice design, email design and a payment receipt design. All was managed easily through custom designs, developed by our engineers. Some of the Answering Services brands had complex designs with usage summary and tiered pricing tables, explaining the rating and charging to their customers.
The daily billing operations were all automated through scheduled jobs that run in the background throughout the day. The jobs include the daily bill runs, collection runs, billing mediation jobs, user status ageing and a daily revenue assurance job that performed various data consistency checks to ensure that charging and rating was working well without any errors. There was proactive monitoring of the system through automation and reports would inform our client of any charging or rating related discrepancy, before it impacted the customer’s bill or payment.
“Before we used to run manual reconciliation for hours. With jBilling, now we just run a system consistency checks report and we are done. If there is any issue with rating or charging, we resolve it with ease before it impacts our customers” – exclaims the Billing Ops Lead from the Client-side.
There are many other features which have been developed over a period of time. These features keep enhancing the system, the solution and the client’s offerings to its customers. The automated payment processing has had a few share of developments, owing to targeting different geographies and countries. We developed a set of plugins supporting payments with different payment gateways like Paypal, Payflow, Paypal Express Checkout, Braintree and Stripe. It is also possible to create a dynamic payment method, storing additional payment meta fields for each method.
The roll out to multiple countries was easy because of jBilling. It quickly supported automated payment processing with different gateways. The tax support for various countries like the US, UK and Canada was almost all present out of the box. The support for complex pricing rules and a shared Product Catalogue amongst different companies meant that we were always in control of the configuration.
What seemed like a complex multi-country, multi-brand and multi-currency implementation, was easily managed with jBilling as the billing engine. The billing platform’s ability to be extended easily with its plugin based architecture and its integration capability made the implementation simpler than it was.
A dedicated team, with in-depth domain knowledge and technical capabilities required for the implementation, remained available for many years. Both teams worked together and achieved great results. The client is further expanding its business offerings and its customer base, creating new avenues for all stakeholders.
“The jBilling platform helps you grow and the team assists you all along to ensure you are not blocked at any time”.