Utility Providers Must Find Ways To Support The Continued Use Of Digital Processes, Such As Digital Billing And Payments
After more than a year of lockdowns and limited physical contact, use of digital channels across industries has escalated to an all-time high. Therefore, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen an immense increase in consumer demand for digital engagement with their utility.
Now that the initial crisis and uncertainty have subsided, and communities are opening up again, utilities must look at ways to further assist their recovering customer base. Agile utilities who want to keep their customers well serviced must have a plan to continue improving their digital offering, or risk a reverse migration.
For example, customers who previously did walk-in payments at their local utility or went to the post office to mail a check, had to quickly come to grips with receiving and paying their bill via digital channels. These same customers now have the choice to return to physical channels or continue using digital.
For those utilities that implemented a customer-centric, easy-to-use, digital billing and payment process, it’s likely that consumers will opt to stay on digital. But utilities that were not successful at doing this can expect to see a reverse trend when it comes to digital adoption, with a portion of their customer base opting to return to walk-in payments.
Digital billing and payment in utilities is not a new concept
Digital billing and payment in utilities has been available for years, and the early utility adopters of this technology enjoyed a competitive differentiator for a period. But the pandemic motivated more utilities and consumers to adopt digital technologies than ever before, which means simply offering digital options is no longer enough to stand out.
Utilities must assess whether their current digital billing and payment offering is truly customer-centric, or if it was developed to quickly tick a box. Receiving the bill must be easy, the information itself must be quick to understand, and making a payment should be simple.
Providing the customer with a choice as to how they want to receive and pay their bill is key. One customer may want to visit the call center or mail a check, while the next will opt to use a secure online portal or a mobile application.
Enabling digital progress during uniquely unusual times
Utility providers must look for ways to support the continued use of digital processes, such as digital billing and payments. This is not only a way to provide a great customer experience but provides benefits to the utility as well, such as faster payments and simpler reconciliations.
Utilities can support their customers in the following ways:
- Continue educating consumers on how to use digital channels for tasks that previously required physical interaction, such as the billing and payment process
- Ensure that digital processes are highly secure and personal information is protected throughout the information lifecycle, while also teaching customers how to keep their own information and devices safe
- Motivate new customers to adopt digital processes by ensuring that onboarding programs promote the available channels, and leverage email and social media to educate customers that are new to digital processes
- Provide additional resources to potentially vulnerable customers on how to identify and prevent scams, as cybercrime continues to increase in volume and sophistication.
Digital transformation can empower and reassure your customers, but it must be targeted and enacted with care and attention. Through all these critical initiatives, utilities should also be sensitive to consumers' priorities during this time. Communication strategies that may have been effective a few months ago, could be irrelevant to customers now that restrictions are being lifted.
Doxim CCM is purpose-built to optimize the bill-to-payment journey
By working with a utility-focused billing and payment provider, you can draw on existing industry expertise to improve the bill-to-payment journey, without increasing the burden on your internal teams.
It’s vital to select a partner that can fulfill your immediate needs, while also helping you plan for a full omnichannel, bill-to-payment customer experience.
Take the first step today – delight your utility customers by providing a customer-centric utility billing and payment solution.
Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, by way of Washington DC. He studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia before diving into the world of federal energy policy.
Today he runs Chester Energy and Policy LLC and publishes his blog at ChesterEnergyandPolicy.com in which he shares news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy and energy technology. You can also see Matt’s work on energycentral.com where he serves as a Community Manage with a utility industry focus.
Matt is writing a series of guest blogs for Doxim, focusing on paperless billing and digital communication in utilities.
For daily quick hits on energy and utility topics, you can follow him on Twitter at @ChesterEnergy.