Reduce Payment Frictions in Utilities and Increase Speed to Pay

by | Oct 28, 2021

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?

Watch Doxim’s on-demand webinar “State of payments for utilities” to learn more. WATCH WEBINAR

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

2020
52%
2021 est
68%

Obtain information about important billing events

 

2020
58%
2021 est
66%

Make a bill payment

 

2020
50%
2021 est
65%

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?”

Biller website

 

2018
58%
2020
60%

Bank Website

 

2018
33%
2020
32%

Biller mobile

 

2018
19%
2020
23%

Bank mobile

 

2018
10%
2020
11%

Third party website

 

2018
6%
2020
7%

Text message

 

2020
4%

Virtual voice assistant

 

2020
3%

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.

AUTOMATIC PAYMENTS

Checking

Debit Card

DIGITAL PAYMENTS

Biller website

Bank website

Bill Pay Services

MANUAL PAYMENTS

Mail

In-person

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:

  • Locations
  • Hours
  • 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:

Mobile payments:

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.”

Kiosks:

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. CONNECT WITH ME

3. Expansion of digital products

As banking customer behavior shifts, banks must move with the times, or risk getting left behind. Many banks today are exploring the power and potential of open banking, which can allow them to offer more innovative products and services to their customers, as well as to better compete with fintech companies and other non-traditional financial service providers.

As you shift your banking business model to reach new segments or provide an enhanced array of services, communication becomes even more pivotal to your success. After all, if your customers don’t know which new services they qualify for, or how those services will help them meet their goals, then they are unlikely to explore them further. CCM technology can be leveraged here to provide personalized on-statement messaging that directs customers to the right products and services, as well as 1:1 personalized “explainer” videos to help them get started.

Adjusting your bank’s priorities to thrive in 2023

In an era of constant change, the key to successfully transforming your bank’s business model will be to stay attuned to the changing needs and preferences of customers, and to be open to exploring new opportunities and technologies that can help your FI stay competitive and relevant. But these new opportunities are doomed to fail if you do not clearly communicate their benefits and make it simple for customers to access them.

That is why transforming your customer communication strategy is the best first step to broader digital transformation. By updating your approach to communications to meet omnichannel customer needs, you also position your bank to communicate the benefits of changes in your broader organization, like new or enhanced products and services. The pace of change in banking has never been brisker – but with the right strategic approach to these changes, the future is bright.

Investing in a modern customer communication management and engagement platform is an essential part modernizing your banking strategy, as it can provide the personalized digital experiences that will keep your bank or credit union ahead of the competition. It helps provide a great customer experience, and builds rich relationships, which in turn results in customers for life and a competitive advantage in the rapidly evolving financial marketplace.

How Doxim can address the banking customer communications trends identified and help future-proof your digital banking strategy

banking customer communications trends

Doxim’s experienced consultants and omnichannel platform can help transform your customer experience in many ways, including:

  • Gathering and utilizing customer data to continually improve the personalization of communications.
  • Building trust with customers via communication (via print, PDF, HTML, email, text, and online interactive experiences).
  • Leveraging interactive video to drive personalized digital customer experiences, such as interactive statements, bills, or reports, that offer visual engagement and real-time interactivity
  • Putting customer data, including customer statements, at the fingertips of your service representatives for immediate and personal service.
  • Making a meaningful connection with value-added content, like information about philanthropic activities, on customer statements.

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