Overcome the Conundrum of Telecom Invoices and Electronic Billing

ETMA seeks greater standardization with Electronic Data Interchange or EDI billing and how telecom service providers implement this billing. The data that is in bills provide a starting point for TEM programs.

Quality and detail in telecom carriers’ billing varies widely among its different services. Carriers may commit to implement the EDI billing standard, but how they implement it can vary wildly. Billing also varies because carriers have many different billing platforms.

Lack of standards for carrier billing causes unpredictable delays in implementing Telecom Expense Management (TEM) programs. Customers frequently assign blame to TEM suppliers for quality of billing information, level of detail, and implementation delays. In fact, TEM solutions providers and enterprises incur high costs of capturing and normalizing data from different telecom carriers’ billing systems.

Arguments Against Paper Bills

Receiving paper bills for telecom services is inefficient and labor-intensive. Many organizations report that the costs of processing a paper invoice are $75-$50. In addition to the administrative and mailing expenses, there are costs to archive, shred and dispose of the paper bills.

Errors in processing paper bills and delays in processing bills that arrive by mail can lead to late payment penalties and uncontrolled service disconnects. When bills come in an electronic format, TEM systems can automate bill processing, expense validation, optimization of expenses, expense charge-backs, reporting, and trend analysis.

The Conundrum of Electronic Billing

Many large companies have finance and accounting departments that believe they need physical paper bills to audit bills. In fact, billing that is received in the EDI format listed below will provide more detail and enable firms to conduct more effective audits. Auditors can use the processing power of computers to identify billing errors in a comprehensive systematic manner, and identify areas for further investigation.

The Solution

ETMA is seeking to drive adoption of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) billing that meets agreed upon standards. EDI is the data format used by the majority of electronic commerce transactions in the world. Most telecom providers in the United States have adopted the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards (ASC) X12 standards for EDI.

Customers should formally request that telecom service providers present uniform data through EDI billing by inserting the language that addresses three critical areas.

1. The level of detail that will provided in the billing (811 level nine call and USOC level detail and as much or more detail than paper invoicing)
2.Billing will be reliable for auditing to contractual rates and terms.
3.Billing must be accurate for bill payment.

The precise language is posted in a free paper, A Call to Action: Overcoming the Conundrum of Telecom Invoices and Electronic Billing, that you can download. ETMA seeks to work with telecom service providers to help them gain efficiencies in billing because that will help our members and customers. This is a sensitive topic because the costs of implementing EDI may fall more heavily on smaller telecom service providers, countries and TEM suppliers. Some may interpret billing standardization as a threat to competition in the TEM market, but the industry needs standards for electronic billing. If you are interested in supporting this activity, please register to join our KPI Committee, which will be working on this issue. You can learn more about this committee and other committees.

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