When a telecom operator wishes to set up a billing system of its own, then they should first define their products and services by their sales and marketing department before proceeding to set up a billing system.
Product is a logical or physical entity which is sold out to customers by the operators. For example, mobile phone, internet connection, Voice calls connection, VPN, Video on demand, Digital TV connection, etc.
A product can have its monthly rental called as periodic charges also. A product can be usage generating product or non-usage generating product. A usage generating product will be at times called an event generating product and non-usage generating product will be called as non-event generating product.
For example, voice call connection coming along with a phone number is a usage generating product as it will generate usage whenever end customer uses this product for making a voice call. A simple phone set without a connection is a non-usage generating product and it could be given to a customer based on monthly rent only. Therefore even if a customer is not using it, they have to pay monthly rental.
From marketing point of view, there is no such difference between products and services as most of the times both will be used interchangeably by different billing and marketing experts.
Operators will use their products for providing voice services to its customers. An international call can be called as a service provided using a voice call connection. Another example is 800 number call may or may not be available through a specific operator, call waiting, call forward could be said a service provided by a model of a phone set or by an operator.
Below are few examples for a product
Related products will be grouped together into a product family and multiple levels of products are possible. Therefore a product can be both a parent and a child at the same time.
Additionally, each product family can have more than one parent product if required. Examples of product families are
Most of the times, operators bundle more than one product into a single group and sell them as complete package. There are billing systems which support bundling of various types of products together as a package and it can be offered at discounted price.
Packages will help selling a product to a customer at a less cost when taken as a bundle or package. Each package can contain any number of products and these products will be taken from more than one product family.
This package price plan for a product will be usually different to its comparison (that is, non-package) price plan because this is how the companies offer a discount to the customer to buy the complete package. However, this is not mandatory as a product can have one of its normal price plans assigned to it within a package.
A product can have any number of attributes associated with them and these attributes will allow information about individual product instances to be held where the relevant information differs between types of product. For example, a pay TV product can have an attribute recording its set-top box number.
Additionally, a mobile phone product may require attributes for recording the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) and Mobile Station International ISDN Number (MSISDN).
A product can have any number of event types associated with it and these event types will govern the events generated by the product.
For example, a mobile phone product can have event types such as voice calls and messaging services. Many more event types can be associated with a single phone device and operator can charge customer for each of the event generated by them.
Once your marketing department finalizes all the products, services, packages and associated prices, they can be configured in the billing system.
Different billing systems provide different levels of flexibilities to define products and their hierarchies in terms of parent, child and grandchild products.
Some systems are flexible in supporting packages and bundles and other systems provide limited functionalities related to packages and discounted prices.
Some systems keep product catalogues separately from the price catalogues for providing better modular approach and some billing systems combine products descriptions, their features and associated prices altogether.
When all the products, services, packages and their events are configured in the billing system, next step is to define their rental and usage prices. We will discuss about rental and usage plans in the next coming chapter.
If you get enough understanding on what is a product or service and package, then you can proceed to the next chapter for understanding how their prices will be defined by the marketing department available with any operator.
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