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SOUTHWESTERN BELL'S NEW APPROACH TO BILLING SCORES HIGH MARKS FROM BUSINESS CUSTOMERS

 SOUTHWESTERN BELL'S NEW APPROACH TO BILLING
 SCORES HIGH MARKS FROM BUSINESS CUSTOMERS
 ST. LOUIS, Dec. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Leo Breslin's staff at Qualex in San Antonio, Texas, used to spend hours poring over a thousand pages of the company's phone bill just to figure out the cost of calls charged to 120 separate calling cards using eight to 10 different long distance companies.
 Breslin, area financial services manager for the national photo finishing company, asked Southwestern Bell Telephone for help.
 Three weeks later his problem was solved, Now, Qualex gets one report, which summarizes charges for each calling card.
 "This report has cut our workload by at least four hours," Breslin said. "My only comment, 'Well done.'"
 This is one example of how Southwestern Bell is listening to its customers and making significant improvements in its billing services to provide them with information necessary to run a business.
 Those changes include offering services to consolidate multiple bills within a geographic area, translating codes for telephone service into plain English and eliminating the need for customers to manually tabulate costs for certain telephone lines.
 And thanks to those improvements, business customer satisfaction with billing has never been higher.
 Results of a customer survey conducted earlier this year showed Southwestern Bell's large business customers gave the company its highest rating ever -- 97.1 percent -- for overall satisfaction with billing services.
 "Southwestern Bell's billing services have been very good," said Joe Draskovich, business manager for Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kan. "We're able to customize some of the billing services, so we can let our individual schools know how much their telephone costs are per month. It also helps us budget for the school year."
 Southwestern Bell began taking a new approach to billing services three years ago, when it realized billing is an extension of customer service, said Sue Valentine, Southwestern Bell's area manger for billing support.
 Teams of Southwestern Bell account executives and billing managers began visiting customers to ask them how the company could improve billing services.
 "Customers told us they didn't always understand what they were paying for, didn't like the size of the bill, got too many bills too often and either got too much detail or not enough," Valentine said. "For some customers, trying to wade through those massive bills was an administrative nightmare.
 "We're trying to have the flexibility to produce bills that are easy to read and that provide either a summary of charges or a lot of detail. The bottom line is we want to be easier to do business with."
 One of the most popular new services Southwestern Bell has developed is the Full Page Bill, which is seven inches wide by 11 inches long. It replaces the traditional four-by-seven-inch bill. For customers who get their phone bills by the box, the large size simplifies handling and filing. About 25,000 business customers receive the Full Page Bill.
 "The bills are a lot easier to read and easier to file and copy," said Judith Bartels, administrative assistant at the Educational Employees Credit Union in St. Louis, of the large bill format.
 Southwestern Bell also provides Consolidated Billing, which combines multiple business telephone bills within a geographic area with no loss of individual account details.
 Consolidated Billing has reduced the number of phone bills Bartels' credit union receives from 27 to two a month. The credit union has five branch offices and numerous ATMs.
 "It's cut down on paper and the amount of time it takes to verify the bills and it's easier for the accounting department to post," she said.
 Two other new billing services are Departmental Customer Billing Reports and Profile of Telecommunications Services.
 Departmental Billing Reports break out telephone charges by customer-specified departments. They help customers rapidly verify and approve complex bills and avoid manual allocation.
 Telecommunications Services reports list voice and data telecommunications services in several different formats, which allows customers to more easily manage their telecommunications services. About 20,000 business customers receive these reports.
 Departmental Billing gives the Blue Valley School District detailed reports on telecommunications charges for each of its 18 separate school buildings, Draskovich said. "This report saves us hours of labor and makes the payment process shorter."
 The district also gets Telecommunications Services reports, detailing the number and locations of telephone lines and associated features.
 "We know where every phone number and line in the district is, what features we have and what features need to be added," Draskovich said. "It helps us make the most efficient use of our phone system."
 Other reports help the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., keep track of the telephone trunks (high volume telephone lines) it has in service and determine credits and adjustments on its bills, said Nancy Martin, billing specialist for the health center. "The new format is quite helpful."
 Some of the billing services and reports are available at no additional charge, while there are charges for the others.
 As for future billing services, Southwestern Bell is conducting electronic data interchange (EDI) trials with several large business customers to electronically transmit their telephone bills from Southwestern Bell's computers to the customers' computers. The company also is developing a service that would allow customers to receive their monthly bill electronically or on a floppy diskette, which is compatible with personal computers.
 Southwestern Bell Telephone is a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwestern Bell Corporation (NYSE: SBC) and provides telecommunications services to nearly nine million customers in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
 -0- 12/23/91
 /CONTACT: Sherry Smith of Southwestern Bell Telephone, 314-247-6771/
 (SBC) CO: Southwestern Bell Corporation ST: Missouri IN: TLS SU:


JT -- NY060 -- 4888 12/23/91 14:12 EST
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Date:Dec 23, 1991
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