When you think of aviation data, your mind probably goes to the black box. We hear about it all the time in movies, television shows, and unfortunately, on the news from time to time.
And while this device—or more accurately two devices including the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder—collects vital information about an aircraft that can be used during incident investigations, aviation data actually goes a great deal further.
No one understands this more than the folks at Avionica. For more than two and a half decades, the business’s dedicated team has been working to develop industry-leading products and services that focus on ensuring a seamless flow of data for customers within the aviation industry.
The company specializes in complete flight data and communications management solutions, which includes both airborne avionics and ground support equipment.
So where does all the data come from?
It flows from everything and everywhere including various levels of in-flight and on ground wireless communications, to flight functions and operations, and even from sources of on-board entertainment. All of this data needs to be collected, managed, and transmitted as needed in real-time.
Because whether its in the cabin, the cockpit, or on the ground, having the right data at the right time can make all the difference when it comes to flight efficiency, and most importantly, flight safety.
A lean team doing big things
While Avionica has benchmark products, ISO 9001:2008 certification, and services that have innovated the aviation industry—including its avSCAN.flight data analysis system—one of the most interesting things about the business may actually be its size.
Based on everything Avionica does and has accomplished, people often assume it must have a huge team behind it. But from its 2,800 square meter campus in sunny Miami, Florida, the company serves customers worldwide with a core team of fewer than 60 employees. In fact, they even refer to them as a “family of employees”.
“I always like to reference the fact that we’re a small company,” says Jeffrey Alvarado, financial planning and analysis operations analyst for Avionica. “But we’re doing so much! It’s a cooperation of different entities within the organization that allows us to provide these kinds of services to our customers.”
The team at Avionica is dedicated to always putting its customers and their needs first. It’s what sets the company apart. And this is why when it started to experience some billing inefficiencies that were preventing it from spending more valuable time with its customers—in addition to creating some challenging barriers to growth—it knew it needed to search for a scalable solution for its future. Preferably one that didn’t require a large HR expansion.
A tale of billing many tails
Avionica uses an annual subscription model with its customers. While there are a few exceptions of customers that use its services on a monthly model, the company finds its annual option is most common.
Customers pay a fee each year per aircraft—or tail—for services, and each subscription comes with a certain amount of allowable monthly data usage. Unused data can of course be rolled over into the next month, and any usage over the data limit is charged for accordingly. It’s likely very similar to how your cell phone plan works.
“We have customers that might have two aircrafts, and we have others that have 150 aircrafts,” says Alvarado. “We have to manage service for every single aircraft.”
In search of a recurring billing solution
This is where the challenge began to emerge. For a long time, Avionica was using spreadsheets to manage the accounts of its customers and each of their tails. And its system worked just fine when the company began, and for many years after that. But as it built its reputable status within the industry and its customer base swelled, so too did the workload.
Billing was becoming so time-consuming”, says Alvarado. “We realized it wasn’t an effective way to manage our clients’ multiple tails. We also knew we were going to have a large number of new customers coming in.”
Avionica wanted to find a solution to its subscription billing challenges before this anticipated growth. It needed to automate its processes, it needed a better way to manage the multiple aircrafts of each of its customers, and it needed to reclaim its employees’ valuable time that would be better spent on customer service rather than lengthy manual efforts.
How changing the recurring billing process changed the future
Avionica made the move to automate its billing with Stax Bill’s recurring billing software for two main reasons, says Alvarado.
The first, as mentioned, was the company’s desire to be well prepared for the growth it saw coming. With its previous manual processes, Avionica didn’t have the level of control it desired over its accounts, nor did it have the kind of forecasting accuracy it desired to be able to predict its potential churn rate and future cash flow situation.
“We did have an overview of our forecast,” says Alvarado, “but we wanted to be more accurate and more precise to make sure we understood what customers needed in order to sign up for a new contract.”
The company’s new automated billing capabilities are enabling it to have a better understanding of what needs to be brought to the table for the larger number of aircrafts it foresees in its near future.
I also think it’s allowing us to have a better idea of our deferred and current revenue, as well as an awareness of which customers might need to have a more unique solution for their businesses.”
Billing accuracy was another concern for Avionica. It wanted to ensure it was billing its customers at the correct time each year based on when their subscription began, says Alvarado. When the process was manual, this had been a real challenge.
The company used to have periods throughout the year during which it would have huge numbers of subscriptions up for renewal—a situation which would create a large workload on the billing side. Automated recurring billing has eliminated these waves of increased workload.
Secondly, Avionica wanted to have better control over its subscriptions. Stax Bill’s software enables the company to create a separate subscription for each of its customers’ tails, which reduced a lot of complication with regard to billing and added a whole new level of granularity and transparency.
We wanted to provide our customer with an enhanced protocol that would enable them to know exactly how much they’re paying per tail, and to assure them they’re not being overcharged for any data usage.”
Automated billing is giving the company clear visibility into the depths of each customer account, and accurate billing and forecasting capabilities with regard to its subscriptions and cash flow. It’s also giving them individual customer portal capabilities. This feature enables end-users to view and adjust their own accounts in real time, saving time and effort on both sides.
Ultimately, automated billing is enabling Avionica to understand the unique needs of its customers and then service them in the way they’d like to be serviced.
Measurable results of efficient recurring billing
In addition to its long list of other important customers, Avionica recently began a joint venture with an industry giant on numerous projects. The large aviation company purchases a lot of Avionica’s subscriptions, so the automation made possible with the company’s new automated billing software has been saving it a load of valuable time.
I’m probably saving close to eight hours a week, depending on the week,” says Alvarado. “It’s allowing us to focus on other issues in the business, knowing that billing is being processed and taken care of. Now we can focus on special customers that might need some kind of corrections made to their invoices.”
For example, every once and a while a customer will come to Avionica and say they’re not going to renew for whatever reason, or they might need to wait a couple of months to renew because their aircraft is on the ground. With regular billing taken care of, Alvarado says he can now attend to customers in a more focused way, address any subscription concerns, and provide customers with better overall service.
Alvarado says his company has been very satisfied since switching to automated recurring billing.
“I’ve been very happy to work with Stax Bill’s team of developers, the sales team, and even the CEO. Everyone along the way has been great with us and they understand our needs and our projections for the future. They understand that we’re growing and that we need this platform to better prepare ourselves for the large number of customers we foresee in the near future.”
Stax Bill is seeing a lot of interest from the connected devices space, says CEO Tyler Eyamie. And earlier this year, the company announced it was officially the first agile recurring billing platform to offer a complete integration with globally recognized leader in telematics technology, Geotab. This integration is allowing for extended pricing and billing agility around device usage data.
We’re glad to have Avionica as a client,” says Eyamie. “We’re excited to see how its move to our automated recurring billing platform will continue to streamline its efforts and enable its growth objectives.”
While Avionica’s processes of the past created barriers to its future scalability, Alvarado and his teammates now feel confident they’re in a good position to be able to handle whatever growth comes their way.