A billing application uses addresses in a wide variety of roles to describe the source locations of incoming transactions (from the network), details about the customers (and their representatives) who are billed, and the destinations to which the outputs from billing will be sent.
Addresses whose roles describe entities that are physical, or relate to the physical world, include:
Alternatively, addresses can be virtual in nature describing services and destinations that only have meaning in an electronic sense, such as:
An address and its address type in combination with a role for a specific customer can be used by the billing application when generating its output. Not all address types will be suitable for all billing functions. For example, distributing an electronic bill would require a validated email address, whilst a paper bill will require a valid postal address.
The processing and pricing differences between virtual and physical addresses drives a biller's billing preferences.
Real-world postal addresses relate to how a ‘local person’ physically describes their location, with individual countries evolving over time (often centuries) unique approaches to describe a specific residence. For example, the Japanese use the convention of starting with the largest entity (e.g. prefecture) and including increasingly lower level details to describe a specific ‘postal destination’, whilst western countries such as the United States, Australia and England use the convention of starting with the lowest level detail (e.g. building name, street number and name) and building up to the town, region and state level.
The variation in these ‘per country’ rules make it difficult (i.e. impossible) to have an absolute set of postal address rules that will cover all internationally locations accurately. A billing system whose customers are limited to a domestic scope (e.g. a water utility) can focus on one country’s address structures, though even then their postal addresses (for paper bills) are likely to include some customers with international addresses. In these cases, the international exceptions might be handled with a separate ‘free form’ address structure.
Postal authorities in different countries (e.g. ‘Australia Post’ in Australia, the ‘Royal Mail’ in the United Kingdom, the US Postal Service (USPS)) maintain a list of valid ‘delivery points’ in their ‘preferred address formats’ (structures) for valid locations within their respective postal delivery networks. Whilst not being an exhaustive list of all locations in their geographic region, the address list provides accurate coverage across a very high percentage of the actual addresses ‘in use’.
Since postal addresses change, these postal authorities provide updates to their validated delivery points, often on a quarterly basis, reflecting location updates. e.g. new residential and commercial development, address splitting and consolidation, error corrections
Using such an external list of ‘valid’ postal addresses, those addresses entered by the biller’s staff or customers can be checked to confirm they match a valid ‘delivery point’. When they don’t, as some will not, they can be treated as exceptions and checked against the next release from the postal authorities (and updated by the biller’s staff with the appropriate delivery point ID), or held separately as an address exception. Whilst these exceptions may not be valid, validating most addresses against the data from the postal authorities will ensure that most mail will not be returned due to invalid addresses (e.g. due to data entry errors).
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Previous: Using Taxation Details Within Billing
» Processing Disputed Charges - Whilst most bills are accurate and accepted by customers, some customers will want to query or contest the charges appearing on their bills.
» Using Bundling and Differentiated Pricing - Using bundling and applying different pricing by market segments, billers can realise the most for their products and services.
» Business Practices Implemented Through Pricing - The price billers charge for their products can influence customer's consumption behaviour by increasing or decreasing their likelihood to purchase.
» Billing Pricing Models: Explaining Customer Impacts - Biller’s decisions about how they charge for their products and services result in pricing models that influence both a biller’s processing complexity and customers' behaviour.
» Billing Addresses - A billing application uses addresses in a wide variety of roles to describe the source locations of incoming transactions (from the network), details about the customers (and their representatives) who are billed, and the destinations to which the outputs from billing will be sent.
» Using Taxation Details Within Billing - Where governments tax the business domain being billed, the billing system will be a key calculation point since taxes are likely to be calculated on the finalised amounts after all rating / pricing has been performed, and after any discounts have been applied.
» Fraud Detection: Using Called Numbers To Find New Targets - Fraud occurs on phone networks, and when detected, it is closed down and stopped on the phone numbers on which it was detected. But how can the same bad actors / fraudsters be detected if they start up on new fraudulently obtained phone numbers, or have other existing phone numbers on the same network?
» Using Billing Notes and the Contact History - Billing applications make ‘contact’ with the biller’s customers each time a bill or reminder notice is sent, and whenever customers ring or email the biller’s staff with billing-related inquiries and requests. A billing note is one mechanism for capturing the key details of these customer / biller interactions. When a customer contacts the biller subsequently, the biller’s staff can review the customer’s prior contacts by looking at the notes that were recorded.
» How Does Payment Allocation Work? - Payment allocation is the association of credit amounts, such as new payments and adjustments, against a customer's outstanding debts (e.g. unpaid bills / invoices). There are different approaches for allocating credits against the customer's outstanding debt(s).
My introductory book, Billing for Business Networks, describes the end-to-end billing process using vendor-neutral explanations.
Stephen Jones is a consultant who has focused specifically on Billing and related processes for over twenty years. Recent work has included relating a major telco's billing with inbound call centre logs for Call Centre Analytics.
I contributed an essay on testing design assumptions in the O'Reilly book 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know. This book was written in an 'open source' style with more than four dozen authors. The original essays of the axioms / koans / advice can be viewed on the project's wiki.