Time Is Money

A recent UK study by the Consumers’ Association has concluded that government agencies and large businesses are unjustifiably profiting from customer calls. See here for the summary of their findings, and here for a good explanation of the story from the BBC. Despite efforts by the regulator to promote non-geographic numbers that are charged on a neutral basis, the organizations surveyed were continuing to use numbers where they received a proportion of the call charge. For example, the government agency responsible for vehicle and driver licences, the DVLA, earned UK£3.4m (US$6.8m) from incoming calls over the course of a year. This means that, if a person is accessing a government service, or complaining about a faulty product, they are being made to pay an unjustifiable charge to do that. What is more, the longer they are kept waiting, the greater the charge they pay. Taxpayers and customers are being made to pay for an entitlement, and worse still the organizations are rewarded for slow service.

Time is money for the private citizen as well as the organization they deal with, so arguably it is the customer who should be paid when they receive slow service. Telcos, of course, are just middlemen in this exchange. They charge their standard rate for providing a service of whatever duration, but they are the enablers and middlemen for this unjustifiable transfer of money. Whilst it may be very good business on one scale, I wonder if it ultimately contributes to the cynicism of end users about telcos. In addition, if telcos send out bills with big and unexpected charges, they can assume they too will receive a call of complaint. Even if the complaint is not justified, the telco still bears the cost of having to deal with that complaint. For that reason, telcos may benefit by helping the regulator and encouraging the switch to numbers that involve no element of revenue share, thus reducing the costs to the consumer and to themselves. It should even aid telco profits, as a reduction in call costs will make it more likely that customers will make a call, rather than follow the advice from the Consumer Association to use alternative and cheaper forms of communication like email. To understand all the ramifications of such a change, you should also factor in the timing of cashflows and degree of credit risk. Does doing the maths on a change like this sound like a job for revenue assurance, or (for those who like to keep their revenue assurance focused on its core remit) for the newer kinds of enhanced-scope revenue assurance + miscellaneous business analytic teams that we are seeing more of? Possibly. But my guess is that all are too busy to consider the impacts and relationships, or doubt they could influence the telco to do anything about it anyway. Such is the challenge of abstraction in a complex environment. Sometimes it is just easier to get on with looking for those lost minutes instead of adding value. And, after all, time is money – and nobody wants to waste time doing something that is not their job…

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.