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5 Essential Steps to a Winning eBill Strategy

 

Imagine these 3 scenarios:

  1. You received an email notification that your credit card bill is ready for viewing and payment online. You don’t remember your password. Do you pay it? If so, when?
  2. Your water bill has arrived by post. You open it after a long day at the office. Do you pay it? If so, when?
  3. You’re on your bank’s portal wanting to pay your bill from your smartphone. You’ve tried your password three times and are pretty sure you just pressed the wrong keys. Now you are locked out. Do you pay it? If so, when?

This is real life. This is you as well as your customers. And I’d be willing to say that if we are all honest with ourselves, all of the above scenarios result in delayed or late payment. A very small and highly commendable group of people will answer “Yes, there and then”.

Why self-service strategies, such as portals, aren’t cutting it:

  • People do not want to remember multiple usernames and passwords.
  • Customers feel they shouldn't have to make all the effort to pay.
  • Mobile in this day and age does not only mean geographical ease, but also instant gratification. Smartphones are making this all the more pertinent. Make your customers wait and they will go somewhere else.

Avoid delayed payments - 'Push' your customers' bills to their inboxes

The knock on effect of delayed payment is higher DSO and reduced liquidity, neither of which have happy endings in the world of business. And this is where PUSH eBilling comes in. PUSH eBilling sends your customers’ bills to their inboxes.  Tech in Asia, June 2012 recently quoted Aliza Knox, MD of commerce for Google Asia-Pacific “most people keep at least 1 mobile device within three feet and check it an average of 40 times a day”. This goes to show that inbox delivery coupled with payment functionality from within this email or bill proves to be a heck of a lot of opportunities to drive payment at a very low cost.

But it isn’t just about the technology.

Here are 5 Essential Steps to a Winning eBill Strategy

 1.   Have a clear email collection strategy 

#1 is truly number 1… there is nowhere else to start.

An email address is the gold standard of online communication. Without it, you will consistently need to resort to more expensive methods of communication, namely human intervention and post. There are many ways to collect customer email addresses. Ideally, it should be at every customer touch point, such as in store, call centre, via text campaigns, etc.

2.       Coordinate eBill with text messages (SMS)

eBilling is most successful when thoroughly integrated into your multi-channel strategy. Research shows a serious uplift in open rate when emails are preceded by a text announcing the arrival of an email in the inbox.[i] Again, reduce the effort; make it easy… let them know where to look!

3.       Use your analytics to silo customers

I am consistently surprised by how few collections and billing departments are using their expensive analytics to their full potential. Because PUSH eBills are encrypted and secure, they can be used for highly personalised communication.  Why not send out a settlement offer instead of a bill to a certain customer segment instead of demand of complete payment? Isn’t it better always to retain the debt than to sell it?

Whatever you do, don’t sit on your analytics.

4.       Serve your cash customers within the eDocument

Maybe I’ve been around the block a few too many times but one thing I know for certain is that cash is NOT dead. Whether it’s paying that builder or someone else there is a huge world of people that take their weekly salaries in the form of paper notes.

These customers can be the hardest to convert to paperless. Some of your more tax abiding cash customers will deposit the cash and then pay by card. However, a tremendous amount will prefer to pay via a cash payment terminal such as Paypoint or Payzone. In order to do that, they are provided with a barcode, on their PAPER bill, which they then take to a till and pay with cash.

Incorporating these barcodes into your eBills is a fantastic way to allow your cash customers to go paperless. Without this, they will probably never turn off paper.

5.       Automate, automate, automate- follow up with a direct debit campaign

Whilst eBilling can drastically reduce billing costs and DSO, it by no means promises more payments… or can it? Direct Debit is something many customers enjoy, but the process of signing up is often cumbersome. Why not send out a targeted Direct Debit campaign to ask for eConsent, directly from within your email bills? This is the holy grail of self-serve.

Quite simply, in order to get the most out of eBilling it is important that you not only rely on technology to create magic. That’s only half the battle. Strategic roll out is the other.

 

 

[i] Email Benchmarking Report, January- June 2012, Communicator Corp

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Comments: (3)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 13 May, 2013, 09:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

According to this recent Gallup poll, 58% of bank customers prefer printed statements via snail-mail and 38% via online (publish to portal). A mere 3% want to receive statements by email, a figure that's even lower than the segment (4%) that prefers to visit a branch to collect printed statements. Having highlighted several issues with eBills and eStatements on more than one occasion - viz. here and here - I'm not too surprised by the overwhelming preference for printed statements. On the face of such numbers, banks need to ask themselves if it's worth adopting eBilling technology even if there are strategies for winning in it. 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 13 May, 2013, 10:30Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I believe this Gallup poll only because most eBilling and eStatements have such minimal and poor functionality that lack the convenience customers are looking for. Not all eBilling and eStatement solutions are created equal. Even though I'm in this space as a career and passion, I can still confess that I WILL NOT turn off paper for some of the companies I deal with because the alternate digital solution is just not up to scratch and requires too much effort on my behalf. However, when done properly, the resulting figures are practically a total reversal of the numbers in the Gallup poll. A banking client of ours for example got 40% paper turn off (complete, no double dipping with both paper and email) of customers with email addresses in just the first month. And with a utility in the States on the eBilling side, not only did they get a massive uptake of eBilling but it drastically reduced their DSO with them seeing 42% of their new eBilling clients paying in less than 9 days and a good portion of those paying in less than 3. Before our solution, these customers were taking 26 days to pay. Both of these projects achieved an ROI within 3 months. So, although what the general public says not without merit, I am of the camp that these people have simply not yet experienced a highly sophisticated solution. Because let's face it, most eBilling, portals and email (which is not the same as an eStatement or eBill necessarily), are simply not easy enough. 

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 13 May, 2013, 14:44Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

eBill technology has been around for over a decade and IMHO plays an insignificant role in the bigger picture. I find it difficult to believe that there aren't many other equally sophisticated technologies that make the process easy. The way in which technology is implemented counts for a lot. 40% paper turn off pales in comparison with an insurer that achieved 100% paper turn off by customers with email addresses in one month. How did they do it? Was their technology vastly superior than someone else's? No. They simply stopped sending printed statements to anyone whose email address they had harvested without disclosing the ulterior motive. Likewise, ROI for an eBill solution is misleading in isolation. In this post, I've highlighted how billers can lose $$$ in ad revenues even as they save pennies in cost by implementing an eBill solution. This Gallup poll highlights how billers can lose customers and revenues by forcing customers to accept a channel which is not their preferred one.