Billing and Revenue Management
What is Billing and Revenue Management (BRM)?
Billing and revenue management (BRM) describes the activities, processes, technologies, and methodologies businesses use to manage their billing cycle.
Using cloud-based billing and automated revenue tracking, BRM helps companies bill accurately for products and services sold and collect revenue across all their customer accounts.
Primarily a function of the finance operations team, BRM includes setting up billing plans, generating invoices, collecting payments, and reconciling accounts.
It covers both customer-facing processes that increase sales and back-end processes that ensure successful account reconciliation and minimized processing costs—all of which are made possible by technologies like order management software, accounting systems integration, and CRM.
The term “BRM” is most commonly used throughout the communications industry, but also plays a critical role in energy, utilities, software, professional services, education, healthcare, and any other space that entails complex billing.
Since BRM systems support diverse business models—including B2B, B2C, and B2B2X—they are suitable for nearly every industry that uses recurring billing.
- BRM software: Software that automates and optimizes billing and revenue management processes.
- Revenue cycle: In healthcare, the start-to-finish process of admitting patients, billing for services, and collecting payments.
- Revenue management: The process of analyzing, forecasting, and optimizing a company’s revenue from sales.
The Functions of Billing and Revenue Management
Although BRM entails several procedures (many of which are company-specific), they can be grouped into five main functions: charging, billing, balance management, customer management, and business intelligence and reporting.
When a company carries out its charging function, they are determining what products and services will be charged to customers, how much, and whether or not it is possible.
The basic process usually follows these steps:
- A customer carries out a billable action. In utilities, this could be energy consumption. In telecom, it might be data usage or international calling.
- In online charging, the customer’s action triggers a usage request. This is a real-time request sent to the BRM system, which identifies whether or not the event should be carried out. For instance, a mobile provider might automatically deny a usage request from a customer who has exceeded their monthly data limit.
- Billing software captures and measures the output of the customer’s billable action. Event duration, quantity used, or some other measure is taken into account to generate an accurate record.
- The BRM system assigns a price to the customer’s billable action. It does this either through rate tables or based on pre-determined conditions (e.g., discounts for loyalty, and promotions for new customers). Sometimes, the product options may involve fees for usage, fees that recur (like subscription fees), or both types of fees.
- The charge is added to the customer invoice or account balance. Each charge stacks up and will contribute to the total amount at the end of the month.
Many types of companies—such as telecom service providers—offer multiple price plans while simultaneously tracking usage at varied rates, making automation a critical function of BRM software (and the overall charging process).
The billing process involves the generation, delivery, and payment of invoices. With a BRM system, the backend billing process typically happens as follows:
- Invoice data is generated within the billing system. The BRM system takes all customer charges from a given month and organizes them into an invoice or offers several options for summary billing (such as a single consolidated bill). It can even be configured to generate multiple invoices depending on the type of product or customer segment.
- The invoice is delivered to the customer via email, post, or other means of communication. The billing system should be able to integrate with CRM and/or send notifications through an appropriate channel.
- Alternatively, the bill is sent directly to the credit card processor. When customers set up automated billing, their credit card or banking information is securely stored within the billing system.
- The customer pays the invoice. This can occur via an online payment portal, in person, over the phone, or any other means of payment that fits within the company’s operations.
A customer’s balance is the amount they owe or are credited with at the end of a billing period.
When a payment request is sent, the balance management system must update the customer’s account to reflect the new balance.
If there are any adjustments (e.g., credits or discounts from promotions), these must be accounted for as well.
Balance management activities include the following:
- Adjustments for time a service was unavailable
- Charges for unreturned equipment
- Credits for promotions or loyalty programs
- Processing of payments (e.g., credit card, bank transfers)
- Reconciliation of customer accounts to ensure accurate billing and invoicing.
- Setting up payment plans and tracking payments over time
Balance management is closely tied to the billing process but refers to the post-payment bookkeeping and revenue tracking activities, such as revenue recognition and payment reconciliation.
Customer management involves the customer-facing interactions that occur outside of the billing system. These include communication about bills, service availability, and customer inquiries.
For most companies, customer management entails:
- Dunning management
- Troubleshooting billing errors
- Dealing with billing disputes (e.g., chargebacks, refunds)
- Customer education (e.g., explaining billing policies, promotions, and rate plans)
- Providing customer service support
- Managing customer attrition (preventing customers from leaving due to billing and payment processing issues).
Many companies leverage technology to improve customer experiences by providing an intuitive user interface (UI) for customers to manage their accounts or make payments online.
A well-designed customer management portal can allow customers to easily track usage, request changes to their rate plans, and view invoices, improving customer satisfaction and reducing overhead costs associated with manual billing processes.
Business Intelligence and Reporting
Business intelligence (BI) and reporting involve collecting, analyzing, and presenting data to enable better decision-making.
BI tools provide information such as invoice-to-cash analytics to visualize the effectiveness of billing processes, customer trends, and usage patterns. BI dashboards present data in an easy-to-understand format (e.g., charts) for executives and investors to make sense of performance metrics and identify areas for improvement.
A BRM system should provide reports summarizing payment behavior, usage analytics, churn rate, revenue growth, and data from different customer segments.
Benefits of BRM for Subscription and Usage-Based Business Models
Although BRM supports numerous revenue models, it works best for companies that process subscription charges and usage-based payments.
Benefits of BRM for subscription and usage-based businesses include:
Operationalize Business Processes
A BRM system automates and streamlines finance and RevOps activities, enhances customer success and support initiatives, and informs bigger-picture planning that takes place at the executive level.
With a steady flow of customer data, every team within a company can gain insights into customer preferences, usage patterns, and payment behavior.
With automation in the billing process, billing teams can spend less time on dispute management, dunning, and payment-related issues.
Especially in the case of usage-based billing (which yields much higher volumes of payment disputes), operationalizing billing processes with automation can improve efficiency, reduce errors, save time, and minimize customer disputes.
Cloud-Based SaaS Solution
Security is the primary benefit of cloud-based software—94% of businesses report significant online security improvements after switching to cloud-based systems.
Cloud-based solutions provide the highest security and reliability when it comes to sensitive customer information like credit card numbers, financial details, and personal data.
Data availability is another critical benefit of moving to the cloud. A cloud-based BRM system allows businesses to easily access customer data from any device or location with internet connection.
Greater accessibility and integration gives companies a single source of truth for billing information that can be referenced across departments, reducing manual processes and eliminating data silos.
Multiple Billing Options
The TechCrunch State of Usage-Based Pricing report shows that 45% of SaaS companies adopted a usage-based pricing (UBP) model in 2021.
According to the data, companies frequently use UBP alongside traditional subscription pricing. Half of those using UBP have usage-based subscription tiers and the other half have a mostly usage-based or pay-as-you-go pricing model.
To meet shifting customer demands, companies use BRM systems to offer multiple billing options, such as pre-paid and post-paid plans, payment plans, and discounts.
Companies can also use the system to A/B test new pricing strategies or rate plans in order to increase customer satisfaction.
BRM systems integrate with various accounting software solutions to automate the entire process from invoice generation to payment posting in the general ledger.
This helps companies:
- Remain compliant with accounting standards, including ASC 606 and IFRS 15
- Avoid manual errors caused by double-entry
- Spot revenue leakage early on
- Streamline the accounts receivable process
- Reduce the time and effort associated with managing billing cycles
With automation, businesses can guarantee accuracy in billing and financial reporting, while eliminating headaches associated with manual processes.
Scalable for High-Volume Processing
Some businesses would be impossible to operate without billing solutions like BRM. Let’s look at telecom as an example.
Telecom service providers need to charge customers based on their usage, track customer payments and balances for fixed-rate and usage-based subscriptions, and run credit checks to decide when to suspend service. This requires a high-volume system that can handle tens or hundreds of thousands of requests and transactions daily (or hourly).
BRM systems scale with companies as they grow, allowing them to manage billing processes with ease regardless of the number of transactions taking place.
Industries That Use Billing and Revenue Management Software
Billing and revenue management software is used for a plethora of pricing models, including usage-based pricing, subscription fees, metered billing, pay-as-you-go plans, and tiered pricing.
As such, a growing number of industries use it to manage customer transactions, including:
- Telecommunication companies
- Online retailers
- Healthcare providers
- Media and entertainment
- Cloud service providers
- Software companies
- Utility providers
- Educational institutions
BRM Implementation Process
Implementing BRM companywide is a critical yet complex process that requires proper planning and preparation.
How to Select a BRM Solution
When implementing BRM, companies should first identify their specific needs, goals, and requirements. Then, they can determine how BRM fits into those processes.
For instance, some companies may need an integrated system to handle multiple billing scenarios, while others might prioritize scalability or integrations with third-party applications.
Once they establish requirements, companies can test and compare solutions and decide which one best meets their needs.
Ways to Use and Customize BRM
BRM has varied use cases depending on the company, industry, and other elements of its tech stack.
Here are a few examples of BRM workflows and customizations:
- CRM integration. Integrating with CRM software syncs customer data across sales, marketing, and billing. When customers make a purchase, CRM and BRM systems capture their info in one database for easy access.
- API integration. APIs let companies build web applications on top of their existing billing system. They also help them customize the system with custom fields, reports, invoices, and integrations that fit their unique workflow needs.
- Revenue recognition. Each time customers are billed for their chosen service plan or usage amount, BRM enables revenue recognition automation, adding the money to the general ledger.
- Forecasting. BRM systems provide numerous reports that help companies gain insight into customer trends, billing cycles, and pricing strategies. This new level of revenue intelligence makes it easier to create detailed and accurate forecasts.
After choosing the right solution, companies need to set up integration with their existing systems and create an implementation timeline for rolling the system out.
Due to its complexity, most organizations opt for a phased implementation process to ensure total success and companywide adoption.
Once the system is live, companies continue working with their vendor for updates and maintenance to ensure it runs optimally.
People Also Ask
Is billing part of a CRM?
Billing operations are sometimes a part of CRM. Although CRM’s main features are related to customer interaction, some CRM systems offer billing solutions for managing payments and subscription plans.
For example, a CRM system might offer the ability to set up customer billing and automatically generate invoices. Since CRM tracks customer conversations and activities, CRM and billing integration also makes dunning and dispute management processes easier.
What is the objective of BRM?
The main objective of billing and revenue management (BRM) is to simplify invoicing and payment collection processes. BRM software streamlines every step of the revenue lifecycle, from customer onboarding to billing and collections. By automating these tasks, companies can focus on their business goals while improving accuracy, efficiency, and customer experience.
BRM also ensures compliance with applicable regulations by generating financial reports and analyzing customer usage. Essentially, BRM helps businesses maximize revenue, minimize losses, and free their revenue and finance teams to focus on more meaningful initiatives.