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eBilling: step into your customers' shoes

When you live and breathe eBilling and eStatements like I do (I know – I need to get a life!), it’s sometimes surprising when you hear other people’s thoughts and expectations on the subject.

I met with a major bank recently, to discuss the option of going paperless with Push eStatements. I found it interesting that the COO’s response was that in these difficult economic times, he was looking for ways to save money – not to spend money.  Clearly, we had different views on this! 

Few projects will yield a better ROI than paperless billing solutions

Thankfully, he was happy to set up a meeting, and I brought him around to my way of thinking by presenting some realistic projected ROI and implementation figures. The fact is that there are few projects that will yield a better ROI than paperless billing solutions.

This particular bank is also currently planning to upgrade their Internet Banking Portal, including a facility for customers to download PDF statements.  Being a much larger project with longer timescales, the COO – still looking forward to the quick implementation and ROI of our solution – suggested that the email eStatement project could be a “tactical” solution until their Internet Banking portal was up and running. 

So, I asked him if he would then stop the simple process of distributing eStatements to customer inboxes when his customers could:

1. go to his website...

2. dig out their ID/Password...

3. get their security token...

4. log on to the Internet Banking Portal...

5. navigate to the eStatement history page and...

6. download a PDF? 

Needless to say, the meeting soon got back on track!

Most customers prefer receiving their bills by email - it's a fact!

But don’t just take my word for it. InfoTrends released a report called ‘The future of electronic bill presentment & payment’ in February 2011 that showed three times as many people prefer eBills/eStatements to be delivered to their Inbox, rather than be displayed on a website - requiring passwords and navigation to find it.

Deliver an enhanced customer experience and watch your adoption skyrocket!

I therefore suggest that when considering introducing or enhancing paperless process, don’t be constrained by the “we’ve always done it that way” kind of thinking.  Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask how you can make it so convenient and such a great experience that you’d never want to see a paper bill again.    How could you facilitate payments?  What about including graphs that show spending trends or interactive bill data that can be sorted at will? Think about all the ways you could encourage your customers to engage with you. 



Comments: (4)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 29 February, 2012, 10:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

ROI calculations are inevitably based on the assumption that recipients of eBills / eStatements initiate "paper turn-off". From personal experience as well as from analyst reports, I know that this assumption is far from true. The percentage of people insisting on both printed bills / statements and eBills / eStatements - so-called "double-dipping" - is quite high.

eBills / eStatements still pose a lot of friction for the customer viz. (a) Insistence by some billers on passwords to open eBills / eStatements where recipient has no control over the password (in such cases, I prefer to "pull" / view eStatements when I use Internet / Mobile Banking for other reasons) (b) eStatements are not accepted as proof documents for KYC purposes (c) Inability to mark and annotate eStatements; etc.

Until a combination of business processes and technology eliminates these areas of friction, "double dipping" is bound to undermine the ROI of eBilling / eStatements technology. More details can be found on my following Finextra post and comments.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 March, 2012, 06:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for your comments, Ketharaman.  You raise a great point about double-dipping – truly the worst of both worlds!

And the friction that you mention is certainly there for 9 out of 10 eStatements being provided to customers at the moment.  Most remove the convenience of paper and add no additional value.  But there are ways around most of this friction.

Security is important but should be set at an appropriate level for the document being delivered.  A simple date-of-birth probably provides more security than any paper bill/statement, but the biller/bank has to decide the trade-off between strong security and customer convenience and often errs on the side of caution.

The acceptance of eBills for KYC is something that I notice is getting better generally, but again some countries/companies are more conservative than others.  A quick-print button within a PDF eBill at least provides an easy facility to create a hard-copy when required.

And if the eBill is in PDF format, Adobe Reader X allows highlighting and annotation of the bill, which can then be saved/filed.

If you then add some additional features like payment facilities, graphs, downloadable data file, feedback forms – things that a paper bill can never offer – then turning off paper might just become more appealing.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 01 March, 2012, 10:37Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Keith R:

Thank you for your point-wise reply. 

I meant hard-copy versions when I said that eBills / eStatements are not getting accepted for KYC. Using soft copies is a total non-starter. At least in India, while submitting copies of Proof of Identity, Proof of Address and other KYC documents, we often need to show originals of documents for verification (although we get to take them back after the verification is done). eBills / eStatements printed on black-and-white printers simply don't work! I remember a similar procedure in UK as well a couple of years ago, although things could've changed since then. 

I agree with you that addition of graphs, downloadable data file, etc., can fuel paper turn-off. However, when it comes to payments, 1-click mobile payments enabled by scanning QR codes printed on printed bills is very appealing. I believe this technology will disrupt web-based payments in the coming years, just as the latter began to disrupt brick-and-mortar payments around 5-10 years ago. Of course, such a solution can equally well be implemented on eBills also with minor modifications.

Thanks for pointing out Adobe Acrobat X - although I've come across Nuance and ABBY supporting highlighting and annotation features, I never knew about this new version of Acrobat Reader. I've already installed it and I agree that it solves one major area of friction related to highlighting and annotation.

I'm glad we're making progress, getting rid of one friction at a time!    

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 March, 2012, 11:08Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Yes, one (friction) at a time is good fishing, as the saying goes! :-)

For proof of address here in HK, I recently just had to open my laptop (at the Government Vehicle Licence Authority) and show my PDF electricity eBill for them to be satisfied.  Different countries moving at different speeds on this sort of thing...

It will be interesting to see how mobile payments (and QR codes) do in the future.  They've been on the cusp of great things for a few years now - maybe their time will come soon for paper bills.  For eBills, a 1-click button in the PDF works well, charging the card/account on file for that customer.

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