In even the most well implemented Billing and Revenue Management (BRM) systems, revenue leakage is a hard reality. Often organisations are forced to implement a Revenue Assurance System (RAS) whose job is to verify everything that has been charged and rated by the primary BRM system. This is mainly because even the minutest percentage of revenue leakage can cost the organisation dearly. 

Let us look at 7 reasons why revenue leakage happens through billing software:

1. Incorrect Configuration

The billing software maintains some of the most complex billing configurations. These include product and plan pricing, bundle pricing, rate cards, usage pools or usage quotas and more.

Some of the issues that lead to incorrect billing and therefore a revenue leakage are as follows:

🔴Incorrect prices configured on Products, Plans or Bundles

This could occur due to a manual configuration mistake. If the product catalogue runs into hundreds or thousands of product or plan records, then the team or individuals maintaining such product catalogue may be stretched to maintain accurate pricing on the entire catalogue. A minor mistake in pricing configuration can lead to either the over charging or revenue leakage.

🔴Rate Card issues while rating and charging consumption

Rate cards are typically used in the Telecommunications Billing. They contain pricing information for rating and charging calls from one location to another. The rate cards can be the most complex data tables encompassing the pricing information for international calls across the globe, and national level calls via different routes. Any error in configuration of rate cards could lead to wrong rating and potential loss of revenue.

🔴Keeping configuration up to date can be challenging

This is a challenge because you could get all the pricing configuration right, but it can undergo changes because the carrier changes rates. The price changes need to be applied in an accurate manner. Let us say that the carrier increased the prices on you as a Telecommunications Reseller. You need to pass on the price changes onto the consumers through your rate cards. 

If in the billing software, you miss configuring changes in even one rate card, it could mean that charging keeps happening to the consumers at old rates while the carrier is charging you as per the revised higher rates. This leads to revenue leakage.

2. Incorrect Calculations by the Billing System

Another reason why revenue leakage could occur in billing software is the incorrect or inaccurate calculations while charging the customers. This could be because of system bugs or limitations in how the system has been designed.

Let’s explore a couple of examples:

🔴Pro Rata calculations going wrong

The Pro Rate calculations are required when the period being charged is not the whole billing period but a partial period needs to be charged either due to cancellation of the service mid-period or due to activation of the service in the mid-period. 

Let’s say in the case of a monthly anniversary billing cycle of 15th of each month, if the customer cancels the service on 3rd of the month, then the period that should be charged would be 15th of the current month to 3rd of the next month. Now the number of days in that billing period could be 30 days or 31 days depending on the month. 

The per day Pro Rata charges would differ in each month due to the denominator in the calculations being variable. The cases of leap years also bring differences in calculations. If the calculations have not been handled well and not tested properly, then they could remain charging the customers on less side causing a revenue leakage.

🔴Billing System calculations designed differently

The billing system does calculations in the way it is originally designed, but requirements can be different. For example, taking the above pro rata example forward, the calculations could take into account the actual number of days in each month to determine the per day charges, however the client could be looking for a fixed per day charge irrespective of the month. 

The months with 31 days would then cause revenue leakage as the client would have liked the calculations to be based on 30 days to be a constant for each billing cycle to avoid confusion with the end customers.

3. Billing System Bugs

🔴Rounding related bugs

The line item level pro rata calculation or itemised tax charging would lead to amounts that are longer than the 2 decimal points. It is required that the rounding of charges takes place properly at line item level. Each line item level charge represents a currency amount and can have a gross component, a net component and a tax component. 

All 3 amounts should be properly rounded and should add up appropriately such that net + tax = gross is being met. Any billing system level bugs in this handling could lead to residual loss in revenue in each invoice, and could add up to become a significant amount if not resolved in time.

🔴Leap year calculation bugs

The calculation for charging pro rata plan fees or monthly quota renewals could be affected due to leap year scenarios. The challenge with leap year calculations is that this may have been missed in validation and testing of a feature when it was designed and developed. 

This charging could unfold itself once in four years in the live environment. Therefore it is hard to fix and make sure it is working as expected. Sometimes, it leads to billing software bugs that require crediting customers back on account of incorrect charging, thus again leading to loss of some revenue. 

4. Workflow and Integration Issues

The workflow and integration issues pertain to a set of tasks not being performed by a group of systems in the right sequence or order, leading to missing billable charges. Let us see a couple of examples:

🔴Service Activation not coming through to billing system

When a new service is activated, there are a series of steps performed across systems to ensure that the billing software starts tracking the plan charges on time. Also, once a service is activated properly in all collaborating software systems, it ensures that the ongoing consumption charges are tracked and applied well.

Typically, in Telecom (be it mobile services or internet services) the activation of service is handled by the CRM system. The CRM system is a front desk system where the sales agent could complete a sale and trigger an activation of a new SIM. This leads to a provisioning request to the network activating the SIM on the network. This step is followed by a request to the billing software to create a monthly subscription order along with the right plan and a bundle. 

During the integration process, if the call to create the subscription order in the billing software fails due to any reason and does not come to notice on the CRM side, this leads to an active SIM on the network, but the one that is not activated in the billing software. 

Thus, the end customer could use the mobile services without being charged the plan fees. Since the plan is not active, the mediation engine will not identify the service and keep erroring out the CDR records for such service. If not identified soon, it could lead to the loss of revenue on such a service.

🔴Initial period discount not ending on expected date

The service providers do provide period discounts for an initial period to attract more customers and sales. Typically, these discounts are percentage discounts on plan fees for a certain period. For example, a ‘50% off for the first 3 months of service’ discount. 

The discounts are created in the billing software with a start date and an end date of the discount. If there are any errors in maintaining the end date of the discount, it could lead to continuation of the discount without the notice of the billing department. 

The end customer could keep getting the discount on the period well beyond the initial discount period. If such an issue is not noticed within time, it is hard to charge the customer for a longer period of time, leading to a revenue leakage.

5. Not meeting Regulatory Compliance Requirements

The regulatory compliance requirements typically come from the government authorised agencies. For example, a Telecom Regulatory Authority exists in almost every country. It could specify some compliance requirements with respect to charging of telecom services. One such regulation is to send notifications to end customers for usage of the mobile data. Let’s look at one scenario which could lead to revenue leakage due to compliance requirements not being met:

🔴Provide more credits when system issues cause you to not meet your compliance requirements

The Telecom Regulatory Authority mandates that SMS alerts be sent to a mobile user for usage thresholds of various kinds, especially for the mobile data usage. If for some reason, the billing software is not able to send the required SMS alerts to the mobile users, then the compliance requirement mandates that users who did not receive a SMS notification for mobile data usage (50%, 100% of quota usage), then the user may not be charged for excess mobile data usage. 

The reasoning behind this is that the user would not have been aware of crossing the threshold and hence cannot be charged for excess data usage. In such a case, the mobile service provider faces loss from two ends. The mobile data has been used by the user and this is an expense for the mobile service provider. As the user cannot be charged for this usage, the cost of the data usage has to be borne by the company and there is a loss of margin and the revenue.

6. System Unavailability causing to miss live usage streams

🔴Network issues

If there are internet connectivity disruptions, the software systems that communicate with each other may remain unreachable leading to unpredictable results, such as activation of the service without charging for the service.

🔴Cloud region availability or hardware issues in case of on-premise deployment

The hardware failure of any kind can lead to a system downtime. This could mean that any live streams will not be responded to by the billing software. For example, in prepaid mobile services, you would need 100% up-time guarantee of the billing system. If the billing system is unavailable, then the quota validation requests cannot be validated online. The network would allow services to be continued without accounting for the usage consumption. This could lead to a massive revenue loss.

7. New Features Breaking Existing Features or Functionality

Once a billing system implementation is complete, there could be requirement of new features by the client when the system is live. This could be a new innovative pricing strategy, a new payment method to be introduced, or changes to the invoice template. In any case, this requires changes to the billing system. The addition of new features could sometimes lead to breaking of existing features in the system and this may manifest itself into a revenue loss in the Production systems.

There could be other more reasons for revenue leakage in the billing system. Through this post, we have shared some common causes that have been experienced during stabilisation of billing and revenue management systems for various clients.

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