We’ve all asked the question before: “Why is my phone bill $40 higher than last month?” This shows that bill shock—a sudden and unexpected increase in a monthly bill that surprises its recipient—is alive and well in industries that have subscription offers and monthly recurring bills, including the telecommunications and financial services industries.
As end consumers, we often avoid reading our bills because many statements are poorly designed, leading to confusion and frustration. One of the top five billing statement sins that damage customer experience (CX) is “not explaining changes since the previous bill.”
Not only is this a major shortcoming in the current billing experience, it’s also a key driver for unwanted inbound calls. According to research conducted by CSG across more than 64 enterprise organizations, the vast majority (84%) said billing-related inbound calls account for up to 50% of their total annual call volume.
This creates a huge opportunity for telecommunication providers and other businesses to improve bill comprehension and reduce call center volume by simplifying the billing experience, clearly explaining charges and proactively outlining changes in monthly bills.
The High Cost of Confusing Bills
A recurring bill is the primary customer experience touchpoint for wireless and internet service providers. Typically, these customers don’t have any contact with the business unless there’s a problem. This makes the billing statement a critical determinant of CX and customers’ trust in the brand.
When a recurring bill differs from the previous month, consumers:
Experience confusion, irritation and bill shock. According to the same CSG study, 74% of organizations noted “bills are not easy to understand” as the main driver of bill-related calls.
Attempt to decipher the bill. Consumers may scan the fine print or take to the website, only to find general and vague explanations—adding to the mounting frustration and lack of clarity.
Call the contact center. Based on our research, 70% of billing-related callers need a simple bill explanation or resolution of an account discrepancy. Our team estimates that for every one million calls that come in to the contact center, businesses are paying upwards of $3.5 million for agents to explain the bill to consumers—a largely avoidable cost with the right proactive measures in place.
Not only do excessive inbound customer calls hurt the bottom line, but they also compound downstream issues, namely collections and churn.
Consumers who are habitually frustrated by this experience will:
Delay paying the bill. If consumers can’t figure out why this month’s bill is higher than last month’s and they don’t want to spend time on the phone, they will postpone paying their bill (or pause the autopay feature). They may even miss the payment due date altogether.
Switch providers. Customers who are frustrated with a brand’s billing process may take their business elsewhere. According to the 2022 State of Customer Churn in Telecom report, telecom is the number one industry hardest hit by churn, at 46%. Customer loyalty to telecom providers is down by 22% post-pandemic due to poor customer experience, with 21% of consumers switching providers after a single shoddy service experience. Churn isn’t only an issue in telecom, it also affects the financial services (14.1%), insurance (13.5%) and healthcare (11.1%) industries.
How do you create a personalized, intuitive view of the bill for every individual consumer that solves these issues?
Generative AI Offers a Viable Option to Conquer Billing Barriers
A better billing experience starts with better, digitally enabled processes. Perhaps the most daunting obstacle to overcome is the sheer amount of complexity that exists on the billing operations backend. A family of four could receive more than 1,500 variations to their bill variations that could influence month-to-month changes. There is where generative artificial intelligence (AI)—a class of AI models with the ability to create content based on input data and resulting in new content that’s like the original data—can have a huge impact.
Generative AI technology offers a new path to streamline operations using large language models (LLMs) to:
- Extract and ingest billing data, comparing previous statements with current statements to detect any anomalies.
- Explain changes with a “too long; didn’t read” plain language summary that goes beyond the what to provide more detail into why changes occurred.
- Translate summaries into local language that’s more likely to be understood by end users, ultimately decreasing bill shock and confusion.
Not only can generative AI help billing operations and contact center teams, but it will also help meet the needs of end consumers—65% of whom prefer receiving answers without human intervention.
Say Goodbye to Bill Confusion with CSG Bill Explainer
CSG Bill Explainer is our answer to overcoming billing operational complexities and personalizing digital experiences at scale across the billing journey. This solution enhances bill comprehension with AI-driven explanation. Designed specifically to anticipate and prevent bill shock, CSG Bill Explainer taps the power of Microsoft Azure OpenAI to personalize consumer bill insights across thousands of complex billing scenarios. Using OpenAI’s contextual, natural language abilities, Bill Explainer helps consumers easily understand what’s changed in their bill so there are no surprises.
Consumers receive an email or text with a unique link to a dynamic microsite where they can click through the statement, drilling down into each section to view:
- Month-to-month bill comparison with changes highlighted
- Details on each charge
- Savings opportunities
- Unexpected charges (e.g., proration events or one-time charges)
One more click allows customers to easily pay their bill.
With this proactive digital self-service experience, organizations will:
- Deflect billing-related calls with an improved digital experience.
- Automate billing operations at scale and across any level of bill variation.
- Integrate and securely scale this industry-leading technology across their existing tech stack.
Leveraging Microsoft technologies, CSG is helping companies call out the what and the why behind bill changes and simplify the billing experience. This means less confusion for your consumers and better business results aligned to long-term loyalty.