Three Strategies to Deliver a Better Billing and Payments Experience in 2019
It used to be simple. Billing organizations had a one to one relationship with consumers, primarily by sending a bill in the mail and receiving a check in return, and what little consumer insight there was to gain was right there in black and white. As billing and payment channels proliferate, the gulf between billing organization and consumer grows wider, requiring more sophisticated strategies to maximize data and efficiently deliver the experience customers expect.
According to the recent Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey, 81 percent of executives believe that in the coming years, they will be competing on the basis of the customer experience. That number was only 39 percent in 2012.Competing on the basis of customer experience is a challenge for most billing organizations today because it is difficult to manage and maximize the multiple channels through which people receive and pay bills.
Too often, organizations keep each channel in a separate silo, clouding any holistic view of customer behavior as well as forcing the organization to react to, rather than anticipate, customer actions. That approach puts organizations at a threefold disadvantage, as they experience:
- Higher costs for channel management, staffing, compliance and security
- Limited flow of customer data from one channel to the next and, by extension, only a limited view of customer preferences and expectations
- Missed opportunities to strengthen relationships with customers, educate them about other channels and cross-selling possibilities, and influence their decisions
In 2019, we anticipate three specific trends to emerge that will continue to enhance the consumer bill paying experience:
- Breaking down of silos
- More intuitive, integrated processes
- Expanded engagement
Breaking Down the Silos
Internal separation due to disparate legacy systems or an increasing array of add-on services that don’t connect creates external separation. For consumers, that can negatively impact the experience, forcing them, for instance, to use different log-ins for each channel.
Removing that separation can enable organizations to use consumer data from across all touchpoints to create a more personalized billing and payment experience. Insight from this data can help organizations assess why customers might favor one channel over another at certain times. For example, mobile can offer greater flexibility and convenience when paying bills, especially when travelling.
With an understanding of why people make certain choices, an organization can provide incentives and education to guide customers to preferred channels. But that strategy also requires a clear understanding of all channels and how they are used.
Understanding channels is the first step. Breaking down the silos, managing the channels and finding the most beneficial ways to compete on the basis of the customer experience are next. How can organizations do it? Here are three main strategies:
- Choice and Preference: First, evaluate the customer points of engagement and interaction and determine if those points meet the demographic needs of the customer base. Assess the consumer experience across all of those points. The key is to determine if they are separate from or integrated with each other.
- Enabling Technologies: Ensure the overall strategy accommodates engagement across all channels, both digital and physical. This approach positions organizations to use customer data across every channel to ultimately deliver an intuitive, immediate experience that fosters trust and retention.
Design the billing and payments system for mobile-first, application programming interface-centric models for flexibility to accommodate new channels as they emerge. Change is happening faster than ever, so be prepared.
- Improved Outcomes: Establish goals, such as driving on-time payment behavior and reducing service disconnects. Then establish metrics to measure your progress toward those goals, making sure every key player from every channel has visibility into the process. But above all, check in with customers, gather their feedback and be prepared to evolve quickly to meet their expectations.
Creating an Intuitive, Integrated Process
The silos around channels aren’t the only ones in billing organizations. The same strategies billing organizations employ to integrate their channels also should apply to internal billing and payments processes.
That involves four key elements: prepare, present, pay and protect. Traditionally, billing organizations use multiple teams and providers for each of the four steps in the process. The problem is the left hand doesn’t always know what the right is doing, or at least it doesn’t always know what useful customer data the right may have.
Integrating the entire process, whether internally or through a partner, and making sure crucial customer data is available at every step, brings organizations closer to anticipating customer expectations.
Engaging With Customers at Every Touchpoint
Recognizing the need for a holistic billing and payments process across the organization and through every channel is the easy part. After all, the engagement and finance leaders at billing organizations also are customers who want to receive and pay their bills on their terms.
The trick is finding a path to that holistic experience in a cost-effective way. Consumers are thinking about solving a problem, whether it’s avoiding a late fee or making a payment from a bus stop. The goal is to meet them at that point of thought.
What’s clear is that change is constant in the world of bills and payments, and organizations that reduce friction points internally and externally will have the greatest opportunity to help consumers solve problems as soon as they arise – if not eliminate many of those obstacles altogether.
As vice president of product strategy at Fiserv, Patrick Howard drives customer centric billing and payment innovations to market for Biller Solutions. Howard joined Fiserv in 2006, and he brings 25+ years of experience in creating product strategy and launching new product innovations for high tech companies including startups. He is an acknowledged strategic thinker and avid blogger on leadership and product management
Patrick has an MBA in Marketing from Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College, and a BA in Computer Science, Mathematics from Rollins College.