4 Steps Utilities Can Take To Improve Their Customers’ Bill-to-payment Journey
For some utility customers, the monthly utility bill is the only regular communication they receive from their energy, water, or gas provider. This means making a payment becomes the only consistent interaction they have with the utility.
No customer relishes paying bills, and when bill payment is the only interaction they have with their utility, it needs to be the best possible experience. It makes sense for utilities to prioritize the optimization of the bill-to-payment journey, so that this interaction can be as positive as possible.
Are utilities doing enough to enhance the bill-to-payment journey?
If the utility customers’ bill-to-payment journey represents the only opportunity to create a positive impression, are utilities doing enough to really understand what customers want and make it the best experience it can be?
Several research studies provide insight into what customers want and expect when it comes to receiving and paying their utility bill.
In a 2018 survey by Chartwell, 59% of consumers agreed that utilities should send them their bills by email.
Yet many utilities have still not introduced an email bill.
According to Accenture, 60% of energy consumers say they want a simple and useful mobile app from their utility.
Yet many utilities have not provided ways to view and pay a bill on a mobile app.
This gap between customer expectation and what utilities are delivering means there is more to be done.
How to improve your utility customers bill-to-payment journey
Customers want options when it comes to interacting with their utility and digital communication can improve customer relationships. If your utility has only introduced rudimentary digital processes, then you are shortchanging your customers. Introducing and enhancing digital billing and payment processes is a sure-fire way to improve the customer experience.
Here are 4 steps utilities can take to improve their customers’ bill-to-payment journey:
1. Start by mapping the bill-to-payment journey
The bill-to-payment journey should be a seamless one, but because it is often tackled in a fractured way, it becomes a frustrating and lengthy process. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and focus on the journey the customer takes from receiving their bill to successfully making a payment.
Visualize what a negative customer experience looks like and how it impacts both the customer (less inclined to settle on time) and the utility (payment delays and cash flow issues).
Now visualize a positive customer experience, and identify what is missing, such as having access to the bill via several channels, receiving helpful payment reminders, or past-due notices.
2. Engage with employees and customers
Research can only take you so far. To really understand what your customers want to see on their bill - ask the people that know best - your employees and customers themselves. Your employees deal with customer inquiries every day, they are a qualified source of information on what is confusing or missing from the bill. Likewise, your employees will know what is frustrating about your current payment processes, and what is missing.
Getting feedback directly from customers on the bill-to-payment experience is vital to getting the full picture of improvements to be made. Your customers can tell you how they want to receive their bill, which channels they prefer, and how they want to make a payment. You also need to ask what customers want to see on their bill. Without direct customer feedback, you may be implementing an enhancement strategy that doesn’t meet customer expectations.
3. Review your bill content, design and distribution channels
You have two sources of valuable information about your bill distribution channels. The first is the information you received from customers in the above exercise. The second is the interactions and behaviors that are evident from your data analytics. If you do not have behavioral data or the analytics tools to interpret channel usage, then move forward based on what channels customers are telling you they want – whether it is print, email, portal, mobile app or another method.
It’s important to get the content, layout, and format of the bill right.
A well-designed bill will:
- Provide a clear representation of the key information
- Improve operational efficiency
- Manage service cost through reduced inbound calls
- Drive customer engagement by including information that adds value to the customer
When done well, the benefits of an optimized design will be felt, not only by customers but also across the utility.
4. Review your payment channels and value-added benefits
When it comes to payment, everyone has their own preference. Whether this is a result of generational or demographic differences, the best way to provide a great customer experience is to offer a payment method via all available channels and make it the simplest process possible.
It’s also important to offer value-added benefits that help customers manage their usage, costs, and payments better. For example, allow your customers to choose whether to make a one-time or recurring payment and make it super easy for them to sign up for autopay.
Send notifications at each milestone in the process, so that the customer is informed of any delays or issues. And let them set up payment reminders and alerts which make their lives easier (and helps the utility get paid on time)
Not only do customers want to select their preferred payment method, but they also expect to be able to move seamlessly between payment channels, as their needs and preferences change.
An improved bill-to-payment customer journey is not just about generating goodwill from a great customer experience. Studies have proven a correlation between a good bill-to-payment experience and faster payments / improved cash flow.
Selecting the right billing and payment partner is critical
With Doxim as your single end-to-end billing and payments vendor, you can provide a frictionless bill-to-payment experience for your utility customers.
Our platform offers an omnichannel solution that will enable your customers to choose from many self-service and biller-assisted channels to receive and pay their bill.
Give your customers the optimal bill-to-payment experience through our modern, intuitive, and omnichannel billing and payments solution.
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.