I have written lately about how digital customers change customer engagement. It’s no surprise that at the heart of this change, as well as many others that impact business, is the Internet. Along with smart mobile devices, the Internet has changed the ways consumers engage with each other and businesses. In buying products and services, digital customers prefer to research them on the Internet, then buy online or at a store. They expect all activities to happen fast, perhaps in real time. Online commerce has helped support this business model for many companies but has not been as nimble to meet the subscription and billing demands needed today. If not, the Internet provides ways of helping customers express their opinions and feelings often and immediately. To adapt to this business will have to be able to support new methods of selling products and services to the market and support the rapid subscription and billing needs to capture revenue potential at any time of the day.
For example, software companies have moved from licenses and annual support fees to subscription-based services. Innovative companies have moved whole transactions online, such as streaming video to the home instead of renting videos from a store. More companies are adopting the telecommunications model of introducing packaged services that include multiple products and services, use-based invoicing, bundled pricing and volume discounts; cloud-based backup services are one example. These new business models impact the customer relationship and require companies to connect marketing, sales, customer service and finance because as my customer engagement research finds, these and other business units all interact with customers but through different channels and at different times in the customer life cycle. The upside is that managed properly with the support of software, such services create opportunity to generate more recurring revenue, which over time will increase customer and financial value.
Aria Systems is helping company adapt to this change, providing cloud computing based software to support subscription billing for recurring revenue. It has achieved success supporting customers in multiple markets with capabilities to create a portfolio of services; these include capabilities to calculate use-based charges, produce and render customer bills through multiple channels or by linking with the company’s existing billing system, perform account reconciliation, analytics and support customer engagement through multiple channels. Central to the company’s product is the ability to recognize events (such as a new account created, a bill coming due, a billing issue or usage reaching a threshold) and initiate action based on predefined rules. In the latest version of the product, Aria takes this a step further, creating a platform or hub that brings together technical capabilities to support a more robust cloud-based offering. It has technical capabilities to improve data management and event management, functional capabilities to support recurring revenue business, and access capabilities to enhance both user and administrator experiences and promote customer engagement though assisted and self-service channels.
During a recent briefing I was able to asses the depth in the foundation layer that supports enhanced security and reliability, improved capabilities to support an ever growing number of compliance requirements, and options that support more deployment options such as hybrid on-premises and in the cloud. Earlier this year they announced support for business process automation that provides the orchestration levels to handle event management and include capabilities to define events, assign rules that determine what should occur when an event triggers, and advanced scheduling of actions and workflow to ensure actions are completed. The core functions layer supports capabilities to support recurring revenue requirements such as marketing, billing (including calculation of usage fees, discounts and bundle pricing), financials (either in-product account management or integration with existing ERP systems) and analytics. The access layer allows developers to configure the product, administrators to set up and operate the service, and customers to access information through a contact center or through self-service channels such as a customer portal or an e-commerce site. Aria also helps organizations streamline billing across indirect channels unifying the methods across an entire business and announced what they call Aria Unified Channel Billing.
New business demands and new consumer expectations are forcing organizations to change how they work. Companies have to optimize the customer experience and maximize customer value, and one way to do this is to provide more services that deliver recurring revenues. Aria has taken the bold step to provide products to support companies that focus on subscription billing and recurring revenue. I recommend that organizations evaluate its new offering as they look for new ways of conducting business and find products that support the transition to how business will sell products and services to the market.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director – Customer