Andrew Johnston smallWith the advent of technologies used in day to day business especially mobile phones and internet, professionals are now easier to get hold of and clients are often able to circumvent the professional’s administration structures. The problem is that often these professionals are handing out hours of free advice either by phone or e-mail.

When one adds up the “free advice” it equates to substantial losses to these professionals and companies, and especially when looking at these wasted fee on an annual basis. Of course there are professionals who will remember to invoice for calls made to their mobile, but as most will realise and admit, the billing is most often forgotten, or pushed aside as the effort outweighs the billing.

In most European countries and America, there are premium rated telephone numbers offered to professionals who consult telephonically. These numbers are marketed to the professional’s client base and clients are directed to these numbers for situations where they need quick, urgent advice. There are however drawbacks to these numbers. Firstly they are very expensive and the networks demand a large percentage of the call revenue, leaving the actual advisor with a less than a viable cut from the transaction. These numbers are also notoriously used by the telephone sex industry.

In South Africa in the mid 80’s, Telkom administered a range of premium numbers which were soon banned due to the lack of security measures and again these numbers were mostly used in the telephone sex industry.

Recently two of South Africa’s mobile networks released premium rated numbers which allowed for individuals and companies to charge specified rates for incoming calls. After investigation it was found that a similar trend to the European and American premium numbers happened in that service was very expensive. After taking the monthly charge as well as the network, WASP’s and service provider’s costs, providers only received between 40% and 55% of the actual call revenue. However the most frustrating aspect to this offering is that one cannot call from one network and receive the call on another.

Cell money not billedWe decided to check with a provider in South Africa who claim to have more complete and industry specific solution. It would seem that this company has seen the potential niche in this market and claim to have a patented system which is specifically designed to accommodate professionals of all fields who consult either telephonically or in writing (e-mail, legal documents, reports, drawings, scripts etc.).

We spoke to Andrew Johnston who is the co-founder of Prodial who indicated that the Prodial product was completed late in 2011. “We have developed a complete and affordable solution for both professionals and consumers where we take the admin intensive aspect away from the professional and supply a service where these calls are logged, detailed, recorded, invoiced and billed”. 

We asked Andrew if there had been a good uptake to the service offering. “Trying to operate from Port Elizabeth is quite a challenge. However we have had a tremendous response to our concept from professionals who understand what we are trying to achieve for them. Our professional client base is growing steadily. We have also found that, as the service and brand is not yet well known some professionals are not yet ready to entrust us with essentially securing a portion of their revenue stream. It is for this reason that we are considering offering an entry level service where we will offer our platform as an invoice level and allow the professionals and companies to complete the billing and collection aspect themselves. An offering like this will make it easier for a new professional user to accept the new type of additional billing system.”

Prodial have developed a solution for both professionals and consumers, how will consumers benefit from this type of service? “As much as we developed this product primarily to accommodate a real need for professional advisors, we quickly realised the huge potential that Prodial has for ordinary South Africans. We are a developing country and most of our people do not have affordable access to reputable professional advisors. Of course this often results in many people making expensive mistakes and taking poorly calculated decisions”, said Andrew.

“Our service and the access to our professionals is on a ‘pay as you need basis’ as opposed to current offerings where consumers are charged a monthly fee for a service they may use “.

I get that the product would curb the free advice issue, but don’t you think that professionals might not want to have every Tom, Dick and Harry calling them at inconvenient times? “In the development of our unique system, we consulted with a number of experts in a variety of fields where we took their concerns and feature requests into account and worked with them to mold the system into a manageable application that slotted in with the busy schedule of the professional, not one that created interruptions. Our Professionals have full control of their availability, even to the extent of where they want these calls to be received (mobile or landline) and when. Furthermore our professionals can decide whether they want new clients or whether they only want to offer this extension of their service to their existing clients.”

Well it does seem that this billing system from Prodial may be a viable solution which will help professionals find the additional billing that before was wasted on a regular basis.

For more information on this product visit http://www.prodial.co.za.

Contributed by:
Malcolm Pearson
www.tech4law.co.za

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