Virgin Mobile tweaks billing system for new TCP code

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Virgin Mobile tweaks billing system for new TCP code

Uses compliance opportunity to revamp self service.

Virgin Mobile used the commencement of a revised industry code to launch a new self service portal for customers while making changes to its internal billing system to warn customers about voice and data usage.

Last year’s revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code requires all large telcos to provide tools by September 1 that alert customers when they reach 50 and 85 percent of their mobile voice and data quotas. Smaller telcos have an extra year to implement such tools.

Most large telcos moved well ahead of the September deadline.

iTnews has previously reported Telstra and Optus' internal system adaptations to abide by the new requirements. The adaptations typically relate to accounting for usage. Vodafone said it didn’t need to make any system configuration changes to offer the alerts.

Virgin Mobile previously provided a running tally for customers of calls made and data used each month.

However, this could not be viewed as a rolling percentage of how much included value or data quota it represented on a customer's plan.

A call might be calculated to cost $10 based on the telco's charge rates, and appear as such in the customer's running tally, but actually be included free of charge under the customer's plan terms. 

Mandatory usage alert notifications require telcos to be able to accurately inform customers how they are tracking with respect to the inclusions of their plan.

Virgin Mobile needed to change the configuration of its CSG Singleview billing system to make that level of accuracy possible.

It had previously waited until the end of each month before working out how to properly account for raw voice and data costs run up by the customer.

Now, as a voice call or data session ends and is 'rated' (costed), Virgin automatically engages its billing system to work out what that usage means in terms of the inclusions of the user's plan.

Customers are given a more accurate picture of how their usage correlates with the caps or included value of their plan — they no longer need to perform their own calculations or wait until the end of the month to find out what they are to be billed for.

“It fundamentally changed the way we bill our customers,” Virgin Mobile CIO Graham Milne told iTnews.

"[The billing system] previously had the ability to send out an SMS if customers used more than a certain amount, so the notification component was already there.

"It was about linking that up at the point of rating to make sure it sent out an SMS."

Self-service revamp

The telco decided to use the opportunity to overhaul its online self service platform. The product was built internally on a .NET framework, accompanied by a CMS system called Episerver.

Virgin Mobile’s previous self service platform had basic features like paying a bill and seeing how much data had been used.

The new self service portal, among other things, displays a graph comparing the amount of data currently used to what is allowed in total under the cap.

It can also provide usage notifications for items that are outside of a user's cap or plan (for example, international calls). 

Milne told iTnews Virgin Mobile is also in the process of developing a mobile application for usage monitoring, which would be released before the end of the year. He declined to provide further details.

The telco is also undergoing a review of its Singleview system to determine if it is still effective for use within Virgin Mobile stores, where it is used by staff for customer billing, activations and authorisations.

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