Now is the time for utility companies that have yet to tackle digital payments. In 2020, digital wallet adoption grew to 55% globally, and industry experts predict it will reach 75% by 2025. Demand for expanded payment options is also on the rise, essential to achieve the accessibility and convenience that people increasingly expect in all areas of their lives.
In addition to improving the customer experience, modernizing collections processes streamlines the payment process for utility workers, resulting in increased employee satisfaction rates across all types of organizations. Some benefits include less employee burnout, increased on-time payments, and a pathway to more efficient and profitable organizations. According to the latest job postings and staff turnover from the United States Bureau of Labor reportutilities ranked among the highest for job posting increases, meaning there are fewer people to handle billing-related customer calls and in-person visits.
Utilities that push payers to use digital solutions won’t suffer from workforce reduction, as digital channels and self-service options are key to freeing employees from time-consuming manual tasks. Rather than chasing down late payments or answering countless customer calls, digital payments act as a force multiplier, allowing employees to spend time on high-priority projects, increasing overall production, efficiency organizational and employee morale.
Offer digital payment options
Maximizing revenue is a priority for any organization, and access to expanded payment channels is a viable approach to success. Proprietary customer data suggests that more options generate more benefits, and billers who offer a robust electronic billing and payment (EBPP) platform confirm this. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of an EBPP platform should be measured in terms of its ability to incentivize customers to self-service. Engaging platforms will encourage more customers to self-serve by making payments online, using paperless billing and other options. Self-service routes save time and money, but the real key lies in the rate of adoption and understanding what drives customers to adopt online payments.
- Do customers have to take steps to pay or see their bills?
- Is it easy for customers to make an online or mobile payment?
- Can customers quickly and easily sign up for paperless billing or bill payment reminders?
- Are customers engaged at every available touchpoint?
- What options are available to customers to pay their bills?
Digital payments are already massively popular in the United States – more than 80% of Americans made a digital payment in 2021, according to McKinsey. The adoption of online payments and self-service is highly dependent on the ability to offer flexible payment options. Our to research shows that the preferred channels of most payers include online payment portals (43%) and mobile devices (35%). But there is a new payment option, and its early adoption is very promising: cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency and customer experience
Cryptocurrency is at the forefront of today’s fintech trends and is becoming increasingly popular for paying the bills. Notably, new search finds that a surprising number of people – 36% – would accept some or all of their salary in cryptocurrency, clearly drawing a line between growing curiosity and actual use of digital currency.
Billers, including utility companies, are embracing crypto to extend their commitment to offering convenient and engaging payment options. This is good news for utilities striving to improve efficiency and productivity, reduce costs and eliminate friction from payment processes. Despite the existing challenges, delivering an exceptional customer experience remains paramount and cannot be overlooked.
If you ask your parents or grandparents to explain cryptocurrency, they are unlikely to articulate a definite answer. The concept is still relatively new and often confused with technology; crypto is a currency supported by technology to facilitate instant payments. But it won’t be long before the term is more widely understood, as more and more billers allow customers to sell cryptocurrency for fiat money (government-backed funds, like the US dollar) that can be used to pay debts and unpaid bills.
Utility companies are increasingly offering cryptocurrency as a viable option to pay monthly bills. City leaders say adopting virtual currency is giving residents more ways to pay bills, raise funds, build excitement and build trust in digital formats. Customer experience is still king, and as digital currency and blockchain advance, billers on the cutting edge of this technology will differentiate themselves from the competition.
Regardless of payment method, customer data shows that options are valued and providers can reap critical benefits by providing their customers with the convenience they need. For utility organizations, increasing self-service options leads to:
- Fewer in-person customer visits
- More consistent and timely collections
- Reduced organizational costs
- Fewer downtimes
- Reduced call volumes
- Higher customer satisfaction rates
The demands and expectations of today’s utility customers are constantly changing, particularly with respect to how they receive bills and pay for services. To keep pace and reap the benefits of increased electronic payment adoption, utility providers must develop user-friendly payment experiences designed to improve conversion rates. Additionally, offering innovative options like crypto shines a light on those forward-thinking cities that are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and, by default, demonstrate their leadership at the forefront of new technologies.
About the Author: Sara Faied is Vice President of Processing Transformation at InvoiceCloud, a Massachusetts-based online payment solutions provider. With over 15 years of experience in the payment industry, she has a proven track record in implementing new technologies and developing new processes.