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Billing and commerce platforms are mission critical to the digital enterprise

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

The customer is always at the core of a successful business. The age old mantra of ‘the customer is always right’, while perhaps debatable, underlines the importance of keeping the customer on side and adapting the business model to reflect their evolving demands and expectations. 

Customer engagement, for instance, has dramatically changed over time.   

While back in the day, business owners could expect to engage face-to-face with their customers, the growing digital disruption of commerce has meant that many customers can quickly become a faceless entity for many business owners. 

As consumers, we increasingly engage with companies via our smartphones and tablets. In the UK alone, the average weekly online spend role to £1.0 billion in February 2017; an increase of 20.7% on the same month the previous year. This perhaps isn’t surprising given that the UK has highest proportion of online shoppers (87 per cent), compared to fewer than 40 per cent of internet users in Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. 

This digital revolution of commerce patterns has dramatically changed the types of channels that organisations engage with their customers on. And – more importantly – the value of each channel and using it right. For instance, while nearly half of consumers surveyed by Forrester reported using social media to find new brands, trends, products or retailers, less than 1 per cent of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links. 

Engaging your digital customers 

As the highest-ranked member of the G8 leading industrial countries forts digital economy, many British organisations are now operating without ever having to open a brick and mortar location to physically interact with customers. 

Their customers are the new Digital You.   

Your virtual persona across numerous channels, your digital footprint, social media, online finance and payment, online purchases, browsing history and more – everything that you do online build up a picture of the Digital You that organisations are increasingly tapping into.   

For an organisation whose complete interactions with a customer occur digitally – across any number of online channels – it has never been so important to make the journey through its virtual ecosystem seamless. With the vast choice of products and vendors all at the click of a button, a bad experience may not only lose an immediate sale, but deter that customer from engaging with that digital enterprise in the future. 

In fact, research from IBM pointed to the extent to which customers won’t tolerate faults, with 16 per cent reporting they would be more likely to buy from a competitor and 13 per cent admitting they’d abandon the transaction and opt for a competitor’s website or app instead. 

That’s why it’s essential that digital businesses deliver the best customer experience. These enterprises must become “customer obsessed” to ensure that they attract and retain business to survive. 

Good digital solutions pay off 

You may question this shift, arguing “What’s new about this approach? We’ve been obsessed with improving our customer experience for years”. But despite many businesses’ paying lip service, research has indicated that those investments made are yet to trickle down and impact the consumer themselves.

Perhaps the single systems that has the greatest impact on the digital customer experience is the billing and commerce system. The final stop on the journey, any issues at this stage can aggravate a customer and prevent the final sale. 

Amdocs Optima commissioned a report from Forrester Consulting that garnered insights from 300 IT and business professionals into their current and future billing systems. The survey revealed that 58 per cent know that their customers want more flexible commerce and billing options.  

Further to improvements needed in providing more flexible billing and commerce options to meet customer demands, nearly half of IT and business professionals surveyed says that they anticipate improving the customer experience and customer service (45 and 39 per cent respectively). 

As a result of providing better options, 35 per cent believe that they will see an increase in customer loyalty and retention. A further 45 percent also believe that providing a more flexible billing and commerce system will also lead to increased operational efficiency and business agility.   

These findings reinforce the importance of billing and commerce systems in the customer journey – demonstrating how current systems are not delivering on customer experience. 

Revolutionising the billing and commerce experience 

In most businesses, billing and commerce systems have traditionally been confined to the back office. IT professionals have defined and led these processes’ scope, requirements and capabilities.  

Marketing and sales teams tend to have little involvement in defining the customer experience at this stage, or in selecting the platform. But this approach is changing, as more organisations realise that billing platforms are no mere Business Support Systems, but are business enablement platforms. 

These solutions now hold one of the most important roles in building a successful digital enterprise ecosystem. Not only does it deliver the seamless service that customers demand, but is the climax of the overall consumer experience and drives customer retention. 

At a first glance, providing an effective billing and commerce experience may appear simple – in practice, it can be very complex. 

By leveraging the Digital You’s behavioural data from the billing and commerce platform to make better, more informed decisions, marketing executives can influence the customer journey and drive sales, almost in real time. 

Incorporating predictive analytics will not only enable teams to improve the digital customer experience, but directly impact sales. This transforms the billing and commerce platform from a back office relegation to a mission critical part of the digital infrastructure. 

Learning from Digital You 

As more organisations look to their billing and commerce platforms to provide a better digital customer experience, we will see the Digital You’s expectations transformed. Connecting with a business anytime and anywhere on their chosen channel will no longer be enough – they will expect a seamless, faultless climax to their purchase. 

Customers have a flakey relationship with digital enterprises – little separates a one-time transaction from a recurring, loyal customer. But providing an easy experience from start to finish is one way that businesses can ensure they’re giving it their best shot. 

As businesses become increasingly “customer obsessed” and marketing and sales professionals to provide greater input into the entire digital customer journey, we will see billing and commerce platforms come to the fore. This alone has the potential to enable digital enterprises to optimise the customer experience at every point of contact and ensure that single consumer engagements evolve into a long, fruitful relationship.   

Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock

Yael Shatzky
Yael Shatzky is head of product and solution marketing for Amdocs.