As underlying technologies increasingly converge, traditional barriers between communications and IT are eroding, creating enormous opportunities for IT resellers to break into the lucrative communications market. Vincent Disneur explains how Union Street Technologies, the UK’s leading supplier of billing solutions for the ICT channel, is helping savvy IT resellers to take the plunge
For most companies, reliable communications and IT solutions working in harmony is essential to efficiency and success. It should come as no surprise, then, that when given the choice most companies prefer to deal with just one trusted supplier for every aspect of their IT, connectivity and voice infrastructure.
“The IT industry is moving inexorably towards a converged marketplace for voice, data and IT services”, explains Vincent Disneur, Head of Sales and Marketing. “Dealing with one supplier significantly reduces admin for endusers and, by consolidating costs into one invoice, budgeting and cost analysis become simpler and more manageable. Best of all, if something goes wrong, there’s only ‘one throat to choke’. They won’t have to suffer with rival suppliers playing the blame-game because nothing can fall between the cracks.” Despite growing demand for a onesupplier approach, Disneur points out that there is still hesitancy amongst some IT resellers to diversify into communications. “Many resellers I’ve spoken to are ideally placed to supply comms services to their customers, but there’s a persistent belief that comms services, particularly VoIP and other types of voice product, require highly specialised skills. In reality, providing these services is no more technically challenging than the data networking that IT resellers already provide.”
As a supplier of ICT billing solutions, Union Street is well placed to help IT resellers profitably introduce communications services into their market offering.
“We’re the perfect partner for any reseller looking to get started,” says Disneur. “Our aBILLity billing platform is used to manage over £1billion per annum of retail billing for comms services. There’s not much we don’t know when it comes to delivering these services profitably and in full compliance with industry regulations. We’re proactive about sharing our expertise with our customer base to help achieve the best possible results.”
When it comes to billing for communications services, charges can rise rapidly to over £100,000 a month. Accuracy is critical and, due to the potentially large volumes of call traffic involved and the requirement to rate this traffic according to customer tariffs, billing can quickly become a time-consuming process.
This, says Disneur, is why most communication providers use a billing platform, such as Union Street’s aBILLity, to automate the process. “Our aBILLity software takes much of the effort out of the billing process. Best of all, because it’s agnostic, you’re able to cherry pick the most attractive services from multiple suppliers and build the most competitive range of voice and data services.”
Disneur is quick to point out that aBILLity’s application is not limited to comms. “We find many resellers in the IT space using multiple systems and methods for invoicing and generally spending far too much time and resource on their billing. If you’re reading this, then chances are you already bill service charges, maintenance and other types of contractual arrangements, such as software licences. aBILLity can combine all of this, along with charges for comms services, and consolidate these into a single bill for your customers.
“Coherent, consolidated billing is a major selling point for customers and can be as important to them as cost savings. This also means you can achieve complete and continuous visibility of customer profitability, maximising your margins without the need for intensive manual analysis.”
The right time
According to Disneur, imminent and far reaching changes mean there’s never been a better time to break into the communications market. “The arrival of 5G; Openreach’s planned transition from copper to a full fibre network and the conversion of millions of ISDN lines to IP; the rise in popularity of subscription models and managed service plans – the list goes on and on. The next five years is going to get very interesting.”
He adds: “If you’re not offering connectivity services to your customers, someone else will. Once established, communications services will generate ongoing revenue streams that customers are unlikely to change unless something goes seriously wrong. It will help to win new business and to prevent rival suppliers breaking into accounts, keeping customers sticky. If you’re keen to get started, give us a call, we’ll be happy to advise and help you take the plunge.”
Putting you in control
Many carriers provide billing services in addition to the voice and connectivity services they supply. Some will even let you white-label bills with your own branding. Although this can be an attractive option, Union Street Managing Director Tony Cook believes that managing billing in-house is always the best option.
“There are two clear advantages to keeping total control over your billing. First is that an agnostic platform gives you total freedom to work with unlimited suppliers and, by extension, to create the most competitive market offering. Second is that you have the reassurance that all the services you are providing to customers taking this on trust.
“This is highly significant because even with the best will in the world, suppliers don’t always get it right. Last year Union Street’s customer base collectively used aBILLity’s revenue assurance features to misbilling.”
In addition to supplying the aBILLity platform, Union Street offers extensive training and consultancy services to assist resellers with their billing.
Cook explains: “We back our products with account management, customer service and consultancy teams that can respond effectively to the needs of our partners. If the prospect of managing billing under your own roof seems a little daunting, our Bureau Service is the perfect solution. Our expert team can manage the preparation, generation and dispatch of bills on your behalf. This can be a great way of getting started quickly whilst retaining the maximum level of control over your customer base from the outset.”
Keen to get going but not sure where to start? Union Street has produced a whitepaper entitled IT Resellers Can Offer Voice & Connectivity Services Simply, which explores the various options and methods for breaking into the communications market. You can request a copy by emailing us at UST@unionstreet.co.uk.
To know about the aBILLity application suite and other Union Street services call 020 8614 9090; email UST@unionstreet.co.uk; or visit unionstreet.uk.com.