Why E-Billing Programs Often Fail For Smaller Customers

Wow! My last post on E-billing “rules engines” sure generated a lot of feedback. And the feedback I received was mostly about the same things I had written about in my prior post about e-billing program rules engines not always working as had been promised.

Several respondents said that they had to ask the e-billing company to turn off the rules engine feature as it was truly causing more problems than it was worth. One even said that things had gotten so bad that they finally had to cancel their e-billing program although he did allow that service issues with the e-billing company also contributed to the company’s decision to cancel their e-billing program.

To be fair and balanced, one respondent from a very large insurance company did write to tell me that they have found that their e-billing company’s rules engine does work “most of the time” to catch subjective violations of their billing guidelines.  But in my prior post I did not state that e-billing rules engines do not at all work. What I stated was  that my experience has been that e-billing rules engines “often fail” to work properly.

In my judgment and experience, “most of the time” and “often fail” are actually two sides of the same coin when it comes to judging the performance of e-billing rules engines. Which side of the coin describes your company’s experience likely is due to whether or not  you are one of the e-billing company’s larger customers or are one of their smaller customers. And there is a good reason why I make this statement.

Would it shock you to know that most all companies tend to pay more attention to their larger customers and as a consequence put more resources into taking care of their larger customers’ needs than they do with their smaller customers? If you agree with this general statement, then why would you expect it to be any different with e-billing companies?

As a fact, I have found over the years that the smaller customer you are of an e-billing company, the more likely it is you are going to have service issues.  I know this as a fact from firsthand experience, both as a former user in-house of an e-billing program and as a consultant to smaller customers of e-billing companies. In fact, I have written about e-billing vendor service issues with their smaller customers in a previous post five years ago entitled “On Being A Very Small Fish in a Very Big Pond.”

To give you a specific example of what I am talking about here, a common problem I find when consulting with companies on why they are not saving as much as they were led to believe by the e-billing that they could save by the company’s e-billing program is that the e-billing company’s “business rules” that drive their rules engine were never customized as promised to fit a customer’s billing guidelines. That is, the customer’s business rules were not customized as they were promised. Instead, what the customer actually got were off the shelf business rules or poorly customized business rules. And if an e-billing rules engine’s business rules are not properly calibrated (customized), there are bound to be problems.

Related to the customization issue is the problem that many customer billing guidelines are outdated or are poorly stated. And compounding that problem is the fact that promises by the e-billing company to fix or update a customer’s billing guidelines were never carried out or were simply poorly carried out.

You may think that your $10 to $20 Million in legal fees and costs should command the e-billing company’s attention and you should be getting the best the company has to offer when it comes to service and carrying out their marketing promises. But I am here to tell you that your $20 Million in legal spend is small potatoes when it comes to the large e-billing companies. That amount of legal spend is literally a drop in their buckets.

In all honesty, though, I must admit that I cannot say that all e-billing companies and all rules engines are the same and have the same problems and issues. This is mainly because I have not had experience in working with all the e-billing programs that are on the market today. But I honestly can say that I have had experience in working with most that are on the market.  And I have yet to find one that would be exempt from the comments made in this post as well as my previous blog post.

The bottom line on e-billing programs is this. If your company has a legal spend of under $20 Million and you are relying solely upon or are thinking about relying upon an e-billing company’s “rules engine” to accurately review your company’s legal bills, you need to seriously rethink that decision. It would be much better to put the money into training your staff on how to properly review legal bills. You will not only save more money, but also avoid creating needless problems with your outside counsel.

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 Whether you have a very large legal spend or a very small legal spend, if you are in the market for an e-billing vendor, I have prepared an RFP for use to help select the right e-billing vendor for your company’s needs. It helps cut through all the marketing hype and helps a company select an e-billing vendor that will truly meet its need. To find out more, please contact me at jconlon@legalbillaudit.com.