Today’s consumers are entering a new era as it relates to their bill payments, especially with the increase of digital transformation across industries. Their preferences are evolving to meet the fact that we have more technology at our fingertips than ever before. When it comes to the utilities industry in particular, companies are looking to step up their game to meet the growing digital demands of their customers — technology is the solution, paving the way to improving the bill presentment and payment experience.
While industry leaders are already out of the gate by upgrading their full end-to-end customer experience with new solutions that map to consumers’ preferences, smaller companies are just getting started. These new solutions include everything from mobile wallet billing, communications and payment options to accepting digital payments in person/on-site at the consumers’ home to digital disbursements for things like overpayment, deposit returns, rebates for rate settlements and energy efficient equipment. In order to provide the payment experience that customers expect, utilities companies big and small need to be willing to adapt and communicate with customers along the way.
When integrating payment channels like digital and mobile offerings into the mix for bill payments to meet preference and demand, utilities should communicate closely with customers so the experience is as seamless as possible for them. Consider the following best practices:
- Explain new digital and mobile offerings. Utilities have a unique opportunity to adapt and evolve with their customers, reaping benefits for both sides. However, in order to get the most out of any new digital offerings such as mobile wallet payment or mobile pointof-sale (e.g. field or at-home payments) options, it’s important to keep customers informed of these changes or services. While companies may think a small technology change is insignificant or unimportant, this change could be a source of major frustration for the everyday consumer. Educate customers on all changes and updates, and offer customer service assistance should they need it.
- Communicate the benefits. After educating customers about technology changes, utility companies should then clearly outline the benefits associated with using digital or mobile payment offerings so consumers understand the reason for the changes and the profits they will experience. This may include time savings, the convenience of paying at any time and the ability to pay anywhere. Prepackaged marketing message with benefit statements at customer touchpoints can be invaluable in promoting and activating customer adoption of these new services.
- Elicit customer feedback, reassess and further adapt. As with any new strategy, it’s important to reassess if mobile and digital payment options are working for customers. Ask for their feedback as to what’s working and what needs to continue evolving in order to keep a finger on the pulse of their preferences.
The utilities industry is continuing to evolve, and its payments/billing landscape will change along with it, especially given the introduction of new technological innovations like real-time payments, integrated platforms and virtual assistants. Companies should stay current on customer preferences and, most importantly, keep lines of communication open to deliver the most seamless experience.