Consumer expectations are shaping the payment landscape. Today, consumers expect on-demand, seamless and contextual experiences, along with identity and data protection. To keep up with this payment evolution, utility organizations must give their customers the option to select their preferred payment method as well as enable anytime / anywhere payments. Furthermore, reducing payment frictions in utilities and embracing payments as a strategy is key to success.
Is your utility equipped to meet customer expectations by keeping up with the latest consumer payment trends?
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Meet customer expectations and reduce payment frictions in utilities
Research shows that more consumers are willing to receive and pay bills online:
Top reasons for Willingness to receive bills and statements online, % of adult consumers, December 2020
View information about my bill
Obtain information about important billing events
Make a bill payment
The challenge for utilities though, is to meet the expectations of this increasingly digital customer base. Historically, utilities have been expected to flawlessly deliver electricity, water and gas. Now, as our digital world expands and consumers have more and more access to information that can enhance their lives, they are looking for even more value from their utilities. Today's consumers are texters, social media users, solar energy investors, etc. Connecting to your customers just through the mail is a thing of the past. However, some utilities have not yet evolved digitally and don't even have a customer portal. This means they are missing the opportunity to interact with a large proportion of their consumer base.
As emerging digital payment technologies come into play, (like Amazon, Apple Pay and Google Pay) creating seamless customer experiences is now more important than ever for utility organizations .
If your utility succeeds in providing a great customer payment experience, it will benefit from lower transaction costs, richer reporting, and more efficient reconciliation.
Delivering an exceptional online billing and payment experience means customers are less likely to revert to manual processes as well. Bear in mind though that they also expect to choose their billing method (whether print/mail or various digital options), and even to switch between them when necessary.
Channel usage: "Within the last 12 months, which of the following payment channels have you used?"
Third party website
Virtual voice assistant
Source: ACI, Speedpay Pulse
Although not every person in America has a computer, they do have a smart phone. Not providing mobile payment options is a payment friction for customers that prefer mobile interactions. And it is vital that utilities avoid payment frictions, as this will simply drive frustrated customers back to physical payment channels.
A reduction in payment frictions can result in two advantages:
(1) Encouraging consumers to use digital and automatic payments
(2) Reducing consumers’ delays in making payments within preferred channels
To maximize the benefits of a modern payment strategy, utilities should encourage customers to move from manual to digital payments and then on to automatic payments. This approach offers a natural progression that increases the rate/timing of payments received.
Bill Pay Services
Some frictions or challenges typically associated with payment channels might cause the utility customer to avoid/delay payment because it's simply not easy or convenient enough for them!
Manual Payment Frictions:
- Wait times
- Partner network availability
Digital Payment Frictions:
- Preferred payment method unavailable
- Preferred payment channel/s (eg text, email, web) unavailable
- UX – especially for mobile
- Poor internet service/availability
- Entrusting service provider with financial data
- Too many credentials required
Automatic Payment Frictions:
- Timing uncertainty
- No partial payment option
- Entrusting service provider with financial data
What’s next for utilities payments?
Meeting customer expectations of seamless and easy payment will remain a key focus for utilities. We can also expect utilities to start investing more in user experience (UX), as they realize the value thereof in terms of enhancing customer experience. Good UX requires a deep understanding of the customer, which enables the utility to anticipate their needs and delight them at every touchpoint.
Mobile payments, kiosks and the use of text and voice to supplement popular channels are also trends that will shape the utility landscape. Let's explore them a little further:
The continued growth of mobile usage and subsequently mobile payments is evident. Utilities, as with other industries, will need to embrace this trend to reduce payment frictions and meet consumer expectations today and tomorrow.
In 2020, “92.3 million U.S. consumers age 14 or older used proximity-based mobile payments at least one time during a six-month period in 2020 — a figure the firm expects to grow to reach 101.2 million this year. And that usage is now on track to surpass half of all smartphone users by 2025, eMarketer forecasts.”
While the growth of online payments is noted, the utility must also serve the needs of customers who lack computer skills, don’t have bank accounts, or are not confident to pay via online channels.
Kiosks automate in-person acceptance and are a great way for utilities to collect payments cost effectively, while offering customers a convenient bill payment option. Kiosks have grown in popularity in the utility industry since contactless payments became a necessity during the pandemic.
Text and voice supplement popular channels
Channel integration is a key consideration when the goal is to deliver a great, frictionless, payment experience. This requires populating all customer communication channels with updated customer information.
Utilities can leverage multiple channels to help drive customer actions, such as payment. For example, text messaging is a great option for when you want to remind the recipient to make payment, following the delivery of their bill or statement via their channel of choice.
You can also deliver concise information like reference numbers, payment confirmations and account balances as a text message - supplementing communications already received or recent customer interactions via your website, email or mobile app.
As voice technology becomes far more entrenched in our daily lives, integrating customer communications with this technology will become even more important for organizations.
By leveraging voice technology to streamline the payment experience, utility organizations will not only better serve their customers, but also improve engagement and ultimately deliver a better CX.
As an example, why not get a customer to ask their voice assistant how much they owe on their online or email bill and give the instruction to pay it? This integration isn’t a consideration for the future, it is possible today.
Overcome payment frictions and delight your customers with Doxim Customer Communication Management for Utilities
Doxim partners with utilities to meet them where they are in their payment experience journey – to map out and implement improvements to the payment experience where it matters most, reduce payment frictions for customers and ultimately increase rate of payments.
With Doxim as the end-to-end billing and payment vendor, utilities can provide a great customer experience, within a flexible, easy-to-use, and fully secure application.
Our platform offers an omnichannel solution that enables customers to choose how they want to receive and pay their bill. They can sign up for AutoPay, set recurring payments and even set up payment due date notifications so that they do not miss a payment.
Give your customers the optimal billing and payment experience through our secure, intuitive, and omnichannel billing and payments solution.
Let’s help your utility organization eliminate payment frictions and increase speed to pay
Vice President, Utilities Vertical Lead at Doxim
With over 15 years of experience in providing information technology and services to the utility sector, Erin's expertise extends across project and operations management, as well as sales and account management.
Erin was Director of Customer Solutions at Utilitec, (acquired by Doxim in 2019) having been with the company for 15 years. Prior to that, she worked as a Project Manager at MSX International.