Most people aren’t aware of the associated complexities that many businesses face when collecting payments from their customers. At surface value, the collection of payment seems simple, move X amount of dollars from point A to point B, an easy exchange. But, in order to increase the rate of collection and keep your customers satisfied you must offer multiple choices of payment type and channel so that your customer can easily and conveniently pay in a way that suits their specific and changing needs. Not only is the preferred method of payment often dependent on circumstance, for instance a customer might want to pay in cash one month but via mobile app the following in order to make a payment deadline. But, it is also reported that 83 percent of consumers regularly use two or more channels interchangeably to pay their bills each month.
The most common methods of payment for bills like utilities, wireless and cable include mailing in a check, phoning in a credit card number, paying in person with cash, direct debit of a bank account or using a mobile payment app. However, the easier that you make it for your customers to pay, generally means making it more complex and costly for the business.
The most efficient way to design your payment solutions is to enhance and fully integrate existing systems with one single vendor. In many cases, utility companies have different vendors that handle each type of payment function – web portal, IVR phone payment, outbound notifications, paperless billing, credit card processing, etc. Essentially, each of these vendors operates independently and apart from one another. Many companies are starting to think about how to optimize their payment channels, but few are actively managing their mix of payments by type. Utility companies can offer a more user-friendly service that is in tune with how consumers pay their bills, while also decreasing costs and increasing customer service. An integrated service reduces redundancies, inefficiencies and streamlines the overall payment process.
Here’s how consolidating vendors offers a more cost effective, consistent and complete payment solution:
Streamlining payment options that are well integrated improves customer satisfaction. Many billers do not offer a “universal view “ of bill payments across payment channels. As a result, this makes it very difficult for utilities to implement a seamless, secure, easy-to-use electronic billing and payment solution. Customers can end up frustrated for lack of consistency, and businesses are missing out on an opportunity to optimize experience in the most cost-effective way. Utilities that have deployed payment solutions with multiple vendors usually have done so by approaching the addition of new channels individually. Often, it is because they have expanded over a period of time, or because they sought out vendors with that only offered one particular service. Regardless why, it pays to consolidate all channels to one provider because it gives your customers a unified experience. When consumers are paying through multiple channels they expect a similar experience across all, if they don’t get it their expectations aren’t met and they are more likely to express their frustrations publicly.
Simplified PCI Compliance. Any entity that accepts credit or debit cards must be PCI Compliant. Payment Card Industry (PCI) certification is a payment cards security standard that all organizations must meet when they handle cardholder information. It was created to regulate how data is stored and used to prevent fraud. This is a rather expensive and confusing task, and very often even a trained IT department is not well equipped to handle it, especially since the consequences are not taken lightly. Today, many payment vendors are offering fully outsourced, cloud-based payment solutions that can dramatically minimize the effort to be PCI compliant. Moving forward, PCI-compliance will continue to be of extreme importance and a constantly evaluated and outsourced hosted model is more capable than internal technology infrastructures in the delivery of electronic payment services.
Vendor transactional pricing is more cost effective. Transactional pricing provides an opportunity for utilities to add services with little to no up-front investment, and instead the vendor is paid only for successful payment or e-billing transactions. And because the vendor is only paid if there is a successful transaction, the vendor has every incentive to deliver a great solution that leads to wide adoption of electronic services. The transactional pricing model is a good option for those who recognize the need to upgrade billing and payment functions to include a more complete and integrated payment channel portfolio.
With technological advancements continuing to emerge and smartphone adoption continuing to rise, it’s important to complement existing payment channels that integrate well with new ones.
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