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What Inept Billing Software Have You Encountered? 219

Posted by Cliff
from the you'd-think-they'd-be-smarter-than-this dept.
Chris asks: "I am a Sprint customer signed up for automatic payments, and over the past week I've found that Sprint has a computer system that does three ridiculously inept things from a programmers standpoint. First, they send a 'Do not send payment...this amount will be charged' bill then a 'Disconnection Imminent' notice for the same amount, within a week of each other. When customer service is called about this, everything appears fine to the customer service rep, and they assure the client that everything is fine. Finally, the computer system shuts down the customer's cell phone for lack of payment, even if the customer has a credit card on file and has given Sprint authorization to use it. What's the worst experience Slashdot users have found with billing systems that don't make any sense?"
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What Inept Billing Software Have You Encountered?

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  • by sampas (256178) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:40AM (#16334621)
    I had a worse experience with Web.com's (used to be Interland.com) billing system. When my account came up for renewal, my credit card on file was declined. (Never signed up for auto-renew, anyway.) After getting a couple of automated email messages about it, I entered a new credit card number.

    A week later, I still get phone calls at all hours of the night from some automated system identifying itself with an 800 number only. Some of these calls were between 3 and 4 in the morning. I assume the didn't check time zones.

    A call with customer service (at the 800 number) went well -- they apologized and cleared my "support ticket" and said everything was paid up. The next night, I got another call.

    Instead of screaming at customer service, I have started filing complaints.
  • Worthless dates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mabonus (185893) on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:50AM (#16334675)
    My recent favorite is Comcast. I got a bill stating that as of Sep 25th my account was overdue and would I please pay for two months? After checking around my accounts I found that yes in fact, I had paid them and they cashed the check on the 10th or so. After calling the customer service rep I determined that the billing department must be getting their data in advance, and that little 'as of the ________' line just sounded good. No real meaning.
  • Re:Excel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by proverbialcow (177020) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:03AM (#16334753) Journal
    but it goes against my beliefs that Excel should be used only for number analysis, not data management. A billing system is data management.

    Which is the way it should be, but if something goes awry in the billing process and you have multiple charges and adjustments (like hotels, where your $10/hr front desk agent may have a great smile but the aptitude of the lobby plants), sometimes it's nice to mock up an invoice in Excel so you can make it look nice.

    Incidentally, I do work in a hotel that handles a lot of business clients. Billing mistakes often aren't noticed until it's time to submit for reimbursement, and a lot of them have very strict rules about what can and cannot appear on their bills. It's not an everyday occurrence, but it happens enough that it's worth keeping a template around. It's not perfect, but after two years of tweaking, it looks pretty dang close.
  • by DoctorDyna (828525) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:45AM (#16335029)
    Back when I worked at the callcenter for Sirius Satellite Radio, we used a web based solution called TimelyBill. It was absolutely terrible. I was one of the senior agents, that is we took calls from agents on the floor who needed help (or had a customer asking for a supervisor) and also ran the local intranet knowledgebase site. Half of the site was devoted to helping agents understand the software.

    Ultimately, I was fired from the callcenter partially because of the way that the billing software worked. The service that they (Sirius) wanted us to push were the annual plans, which the customer could save a bit of money on in the long haul, but the terms dictated that the annual plans had a $75 cancellation fee. I'm sure if there are any Sirius customers that have been around for a while that read this, you probably know all about it. It worked like this:

    1.) Customer calls to activate a satellite receiver of some kind, chooses annual plan to save a few bucks. Cost is about $143 bucks, at the time.

    2.) Customer uses the service for a few months, and then something happens to the radio, I.E it breaks, it gets stolen, the customer decides to upgrade to a new radio.

    3.) Customer calls in to the callcenter to inform us of the change in receiver, so they can get their plan transferred to the new unit.

    4.) Agent stops the service on the new unit. Now, this is where the magic happens. If the agent is seasoned, and knows what they are doing (or, just plain gives a shit) they remember to credit the account for the $75 cancellation fee. The old service is terminated by TimelyBill. If the customer used the service for, let's say 6 months, they end up with a credit on their account for un-used service, about $70 bucks.

    5.) TimelyBill waits until the customer's billing cycle date (the day of the month that they activated in) to make any adjustments to the account. On that date, the customer's account would be debited for a NEW annual plan $143 bucks, which collided with the credit for $70. The customer's credit card would be charged again, for the diffrence, about $70 bucks.

    6.) Customer calls back. "What the fuck are you charging me for?" Asks for a supervisor.

    7.) Senior agent spends, on average 30 minutes attempting to explain to the customer what the system did, with usually around a 30% acceptance rate. The other 70% of the time, the customer becomes infuriated, doesn't understand, and usually screams a few cuss words or an insult, and hangs up. I actually had a customer one time ask where we were located. When I told him we lived in New York, he proceeded to tell me "No wonder the terrorists attack you assholes, you all deserve to die. Im happy they keep choosing you."

    8.) Customer (in my case) writes a letter to the corporate office, insisting something be done about the terrible supervisor who handled his call.

    So, in my case, terrible software can actually cause you, even though you are not directly responsible for it, to loose your job. Especially with a company like Sirius, who at the time that I worked for their callcenter, was a fairly new company, and hadn't really set their policies in stone, so everything was always changing. We went back and forth several times about the billing system, and wether or not the customers should be refunded anything, and even if they should be given back cancellation fees when they cancelled. When in doubt, I guess, fire a peon.

    Anyway, moral of the story: Avoid TimelyBill (OmniOSS).
  • Dish Network (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lamberms (173980) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:53AM (#16335079) Homepage
    I had cancelled my Dish Network system and switched to Time Warner in March of 2005. The lady at Dish Network told me my account was cancelled. Fast forward 9 months later and I started receiving small bills every month. I went on the website and used their email support to ask what the deal was. No reply. I got another bill. I emailed. No reply. Finally, I ended up owing them $90. I told them there was no way I was going to pay it. Turns out they had just put my account "on hold" and then reactivated it after a certain amount of time.
    I sent them 3 emails and got absolutely no response from their support. I should have picked up the phone but hey, when people put up email support I use it so I don't have to waste 30 minutes to an hour on the phone. They took me to collections and the dink to my credit was worth it to just not pay the money they tried to extort from me.
    I was a Dish Network customer for 2.5 years and paid them thousands of dollars. I should have known better than to think those thousands of dollars would be put into having support people that answered their email. I will never pay Dish another dime as long as I live. Long live Direct TV.
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:06AM (#16335221) Homepage
    You've obviously never seen The Daily WTF [thedailywtf.com]. I wouldn't touch that software with a 10-foot pole controlled 10,000 miles away through a SSH connection.
  • Re:No charge.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dheltzel (558802) on Friday October 06, 2006 @10:24AM (#16336097)
    That honestly sounds too bizarre to be true . . .
    Except for the fact that I've seen such similar things myself:

    A telco company that was a vendor for one of my previous employers had the audacity to send us a bill for 8 cents for an account that was being closed out. Since the cost to cut them a check was a lot more than that (and obviously, the cost for them to print and mail the bill) we ignored it. Several nasty letters later (they must have spent at least $10 for supplies and postage to collect their precious 8 cents), the company controller taped a dime to the latest bill and mailed it back. We figured that would be the end of it, right? No way, a few weeks later, we received a nice computer generated check for 2 cents. The controller pinned it to his bulletin board as a reminder of how stupid a computer billing system could be. He was also quick to point out at the end of the story, that the telco's accountants would have to keep reconciling that 2 cent uncashed check for a very long time, until someone manually entered a transaction to clear it.

    That dime was the best money he ever spent, at least in terms of "laughs per cent".
  • by Mattintosh (758112) on Friday October 06, 2006 @11:01AM (#16336601)
    In fact, I have. I work for a company (name withheld on purpose, since I'm gonna slam our competition and some former employees) that makes billing software for ISP's and other telecom service companies (including phone companies).

    And I would just like to take a moment to back up your assertion that it's not simple. Not in the least.

    Also, more on the topic at hand (Sprint's crappy billing system), I would like to point out that they buy that system from Amdocs. We've hired several ex-Amdocs people in the last year (their local office imploded and dumped a bunch of workers into the job market) and we've fired them all (except for one guy who quit). They've been nearly universally incompetent, so it doesn't surprise me that the software is crap. Our system isn't all rosy, but it was actually getting worse under the direction of the ex-Amdocs guys.

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