“I’m being charged for the NFL Network? I don’t even watch football!”
When reading the fine print on a satellite TV bill, you discover your initial subscription included a free three-month trial of the premium channel. When that promotion period ended (without warning), you began being automatically charged an extra $14.99 per month for the Sports Pack.
Bill shock—a sudden and unexpected increase in a monthly bill that surprises its recipient—and bill confusion make the already stressful bill-paying experience even worse. Bill confusion and shock damage customer experience (CX), increase call center volume and lead to churn. Explaining month-to-month changes can help your business with churn prevention and decrease the amount of negative customer experiences.
Changes in Monthly Wireless and Internet Bills Are Common—and Confusing
Unexpected overage charges and fees on mobile phone bills can shock customers.
Customers’ bills may change for several reasons, including:
- Device upgrade or recent transaction (new phone line, phone or device) where activation or upgrade fees apply
- Data overages due to exceeding the wireless or internet data limit, resulting in extra charges
- Plan updates or add-ons (such as adding a premium channel or ordering a pay-per-view service)
- Promotion concludes, meaning any credits related to that promo stop and the bill will increase
- Other fees (e.g., late fees, or restoral fees for restoring services after suspension)
- Account changes where updating the service address may affect the fees and taxes
According to a CSG customer billing survey, a family of four may receive one of more than 1,500 different bill variations. This variety means added complexity—customers find the bills difficult to understand, particularly when bundled packages don’t itemize the internet price, making it nearly impossible to compare prices with other providers. When charges are higher than advertised and include hidden “junk fees” (provider-specific fees), customers have a tough time budgeting their monthly charges accurately.
Bill Confusion and Shock Cause Negative CX Impact
Bill confusion and shock lead to stress and anxiety—and it happens with more than just telecom bills. According to a survey of more than 2,000 Americans, 38% of respondents said their medical bills were “somewhat” or “extremely” confusing.
Viewing their bill can be stressful for many consumers—even if they aren’t calling in with questions or complaints. According to one survey, 29% of respondents said managing and paying bills causes them “stress and/or anxiety.” And, for many people, that stress isn’t due to a lack of funds. Almost half (44%) said they “wish managing and paying bills was easier.” Another survey found that 80% of Generation Z have bill-pay anxiety, and 63% find the bill payment experience stressful.
When a bill is difficult to understand or is unexpectedly higher than usual, bill payment becomes even more of a burden, resulting in the stress and other negative emotions consumers feel to become associated with your brand.
It also means receiving more frustrating, time-wasting calls to the contact center. When customers have questions about their bill without also having the ability to self-service, they call the contact center. Waiting on hold and being transferred to several agents—and repeating the question or issue each time—are frustrating, time-wasting experiences. Most consumers, to the tune of 73%, prefer to self-service issues independently. Without these options available, customers will have an even more frustrating experience.
Poor Billing Experiences Damage the Bottom Line
Billing-related calls comprise up to 50% of contact center volume, according to a study conducted on behalf of CSG across 64 global companies.
Ask contact center agents to list the most common reasons customers call with a billing question, and they’ll likely place confusion at the top. Data from the same CSG study supports this: 70% of contact center callers with billing-related questions make simple inquiries, such as asking for an explanation of the bill or updating minor account details.
Customers who don’t understand their bill may delay payment—or not pay at all. According to a survey of 1,500 patients, more than 50% of respondents say paying a medical bill is stressful. More than half (53%) of respondents find it both nerve-wracking to understand their health plan coverage and benefits and difficult to comprehend what they owe. The study results suggest that a lack of bill clarity is a primary cause of dissatisfaction with the billing and payment experiences.
Customers who are unhappy with the billing journey—or with an unproductive contact center interaction—may change providers. According to one report, 39% of telecom customers reported leaving because of poor customer service. Of these, 51% switched because they had to call more than once to resolve a problem, resulting in churn that could have been prevented with a proactive bill explanation.
Avoid a Common Billing Statement Sin: Failing to Explain Changes
CSG developed the Bill Design Assessment, a questionnaire that evaluates how well a billing statement meets customers’ needs and expectations. Using the Bill Design Assessment, we analyzed print and digital bills from 30 different companies in communications services, utilities and other industries that use metered or subscription billing. All of them showed ample opportunity for improvement. In fact, even the highest-scoring bill failed 10 of the 23 criteria questions.
We identified the top five billing statement sins that cause customers the most pain. One of those sins is not acknowledging or explaining changes since the previous bill. If customers see any change in the amount due, they immediately investigate it—often by calling the contact center. That time-consuming experience can be prevented by explaining each customer’s charges and any month-to-month changes.
Eliminate Bill Confusion with CSG Bill Explainer
CSG Bill Explainer leverages generative AI to create a personalized microsite that breaks down each customer’s bill using step-by-step navigation, explaining what has changed and why. Bill Explainer guides customers through the statement, itemizing all charges so they understand the “why” behind each charge with clear and contextual explanations. You can drive a quicker time to payment and improve the bottom line with connected payment gateways.