This document describes the process of implementing and running the Telecoms Billing System from Redware Research Limited. Please read our Overview on Telecoms Billing if you need a refresher on the meaning of some of the terms used in this document – mediation, provisioning, matching and rating.
Our software is a hosted system so you do not need to invest in servers or database infrastructure to run your billing. Billing is usually a monthly process which creates two files that can be emailed automatically to each customer:
A summary data file of all the items billed for all customers is also produced for you to import into your accounting systems and we provide software to import this directly into the Sage 50 accounting package as product invoices or as sales transactions. We also provide utilities to help you send accounting data on to your payment provider to process direct debits or credit card payments for example.
The billing process requires you to provision the billing database with all the information required to match and rate each call. The calls themselves are loaded onto our server from your telecoms provider or from your own equipment. You can load a call details file directly from an asterisk box or your own telecoms switch for processing through the billing system or use a monthly call details file created by your telecoms provider.
Call data is processed through the system and problem calls that have data missing from the billing database are passed into a suspense file for the person appointed your Billing Manager to view and fix. Typical issues encountered on a daily basis might be the need to add an Originating Number and Pricelist against a customer record once a new line has become active or the need to enter a retail and cost price for a new destination that has not been encountered before.
The Billing process in general is described in our Telecoms Billing Overview document and our approach detailed below.
Our approach to implementation involves a setup process where we take you through the mediation and preparation phases so that we assist you to complete the first billing run. We also assist and guide you with telephone support for a second month before leaving your billing manager in control of the process. We then charge you a minimal support fee in case of new issues arising so you can request our help once a month a few days before your billing run or purchase consultancy days from us if you need further help (for example to integrate a new source of data when you change telecoms provider).
Once all the initial information has been entered, we can process the call data through the billing system to create the first suspense files. We then need to resolve all the suspense issues together with your Billing Manager. This approach is iterative so that we can prepare most of the data with the initial upload and then resolve any issues using the website gradually as the errors appear as the each set of calls is processed.
A sample screenshot from the website is shown below. Customer care staff can change customer details and add service details (Originating Numbers) or packages of monthly costs to each customer as well as view past billing history. This is the method of specifying provisioning data after the initial preparation phase.
Suspense reports are available as spreadsheet files and have a different format according to the suspense code. An example is shown below where calls have a retail price which is less than the cost price. The options for this category of suspense is to change either the retail price or the cost price and rerate the calls or to accept the calls as they are for billing. Sometimes the calls need to be written off and perhaps the telecoms provider contacted for a refund as these calls cannot be billed.
Our approach to the following tasks and processes is detailed below:
The preparation phase involves the initial provisioning of customer details together with the list of their originating numbers and additional monthly charges.
Pricelists need to be created for both cost and retail pricing by destination.
We take a look at your call details files (you may have several sources of call data) and specify the mediation process for each format so that you can upload the call data successfully into the billing database.
At this point, you are in a position to process call details through the system. Any problems with individual calls results in them being placed in a suspense file. You receive an email containing a spreadsheet with summary information for each suspense code so that the billing manager can take the required action and then re-rate the call data.
Reconciliation reports are available that summarise the billing activity for the current month so you can cross-check against provider invoices and historical trends before completing the monthly billing. Most Billing Managers also physically check a number of customer bills for accuracy.
The final billing process results in an email going out to each customer and integration with your accounting and payment systems.
Billing is a monthly process and you also need to consider daily monitoring of call data to monitor and anticipate issues with fraud.
We usually help you with the initial provisioning of the system by asking you to prepare spreadsheets containing the data we require to bill the call details. We provide you with sample spreadsheets which you complete and we upload into the database:
A spreadsheet of all customers is required each with an account number. We can create this spreadsheet automatically from the Sage 50 accounting database (you can delete any customers not required in the billing system).
We provide you with a spreadsheet of all the possible destinations and you enter as many of the cost prices as you can. We can sometimes massage the data from your provider if you have pricing data in a suitable format for us to process automatically.
You can create a retail price tariff directly from a cost tariff by copying the cost tariff and applying a 20% mark up for example. You then add specific retail pricing for any important destinations such as UK national and mobile calls and you can create as many pricelists as you like.
You can upload the originating numbers for each customer from a spreadsheet or use the website to enter this information alongside any monthly billing costs for the customer. You can also specify the pricelist against the customer or each originating number so that you apply different pricelist for traditional telephony and VOIP calls.
We help you define monthly packages in the billing database to represent monthly equipment rental or charges which you then apply against each customer using the website.
You need to give us details of your call details file format (and sample files) so we can implement the mediation layer necessary for successful importing of call data into the billing database.
We also need your logo and simple design information such as the font you would like to use so we can design the format of the PDF file to contain the billing summary to be emailed to the customer.
The billing system is typically configured to process call details and re-rate suspense once per day. You upload call details files onto a server each day before your scheduled time and the system processes any new data and sends a number of spreadsheets you the Billing Manager by email containing details of any suspense calls. Often you may upload a file just once a month as you receive the monthly CDR from your telecoms provider.
The Billing Manager resolves any issues using the web interface and the re-rating process occurs again the next day resulting in a new set of suspense data being emailed to the Billing Manager. Our support staff also check the suspense data once a month to see if we need to take any action to resolve any suspense issues.
You may need to run the re-rating process more than once per day as you get close to your monthly billing date. The Billing manager must resolve or write off any suspense before monthly billing can take place.
A number of reports are available that monitor the current state of monthly billing and produce a comparison against the previous months data. You must define your own reconciliation procedure often involving reports (spreadsheets) containing the following data:
Summary data usually includes the number and total duration of all calls together with the retail price and cost price and also the CDR cost price from the telecoms provider if supplied in the call details file.
The billing process can take place once reconciliation is complete and results in an email being sent to the customer with a PDF containing the billing summary of call costs and monthly costs together with a spreadsheet format data file of all call details.
The invoices can be imported directly into Sage 50 as product invoices or transaction files integrated with your own systems and third party payment providers. The bills and spreadsheet files are available for download onto your internal systems allowing a customer portal to be created easily from billing data.