How To Keep Up With The Changing World Of Utility Payments
Utilities, like many other companies, are always looking for ways to improve the customer experience and make every customer interaction as simple and pleasant as possible. But, with limited time and resources, utilities sometimes find themselves having to choose which experiences to focus their attention on first.
When a utility ranks customer interactions in terms of frequency and importance, the payment process often emerges as the top focal point for customer engagement. After all, for many customers, bill payment is the only time they will interact with your utility organization outside of initial onboarding and any service requests or outages. By optimizing this monthly touchpoint, you can have an outsized effect on the customer’s perception of your utility organization as a whole.
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Improve The Utility Payment Experience in Five Easy Steps
Optimizing the payment experience means walking through an analysis of how your payments are currently processed vs. your goal state for payments, and determining how to get there, and what the ROI for such a transformation might look like.
To complete such an analysis, your utility can follow these steps:
1) Assess your current payment experience. Through which channels can your customers currently pay bills? What are the costs of those channels? Manually processing payments in person or by mail, for example, involves high labor costs and can be very inconvenient for customers as well.
2) Identify the next logical step in your payment transformation. For utilities which still accept only manual payments, the next logical step may be to digitize the payment process to reduce costs. Other utilities may have a digital payment solution in place, but may want to make the payment process simpler, encourage customers to adopt an auto-pay option, or make payments available across more channels.
3) Identify friction points in the payment journey and eliminate them. Customers today expect their experiences to be low-effort, immediate, and seamless. By running some analytics on your customer journeys, you will be able to see at exactly what stage customers are abandoning their interactions with your company (signing up for auto pay, making a payment online, signing up for your online services, etc.). Then you can focus your attention on eliminating flaws from the process.
It is important to note that reviewing customer journeys for friction is not a once-and done process, however. Proactively keeping up with customer expectations means reviewing customer journey periodically, with a laser focus on eliminating friction.
4) Make payments easier to manage with budget and leveled billing. Every utility would like to see customers adopt auto-pay in larger numbers, but many customers are held back by not knowing what their bill will be at end of month because of changes in consumption patterns.
Moving customers towards automated billing requires you to address these concerns proactively. Offering an equal monthly payment plan can help reduce this uncertainty and increase auto-pay adoption, shortening your revenue cycle and reducing missed payments.
5) Consider emerging trends in payments. One key emerging trend is mobile bill payment. One recent study indicated that 53% of Gen X and 68% of Gen Z now use this technology1, and those percentages are expected to increase going forward.
Even if your utility does not intend to offer mobile payments immediately, it makes sense to confirm that your Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP) partner can accommodate such payment going forward.
Keeping up with the Changing World of Payments
COVID has accelerated the pivot in utility payments to digital channels, as customers attempt to limit in-person interactions and handle more of their business virtually. This shift can also benefit forward-thinking utilities because digital payments are easy to submit online 24/7 and cost less to process.
By following the concrete steps outlined above, your utility company can move from manual or mostly manual payments to digital payments, to seamless, easy omnichannel payments with automated options that benefit both utility and consumer. With the right technology and a focus on customer experience, you’ll be positioned to provide an enhanced payment experience now and in the future.
Want to learn more about the evolving world of utility billing and payments?
Industry experts from J.P Morgan recently joined Doxim to present an informative webinar on the topic, “The State of Payments for Utilities.”