Save time processing bill pay checks

The last Utility Information Pipeline examined the Eighth Annual Billing Household Survey from Fiserv. One of the more interesting statistics from the survey was a graphic showing the preferred payment methods of online households.

The number one choice was paying online at your website. Number two was paying by check, followed closely by paying online at your customer’s financial institution’s website.

Online banking checks

When your customer pays online at their financial institution’s website, you recognize this because you likely receive a computer printed paper check with no bill stub included.

These online banking checks can be an annoyance because, as mentioned above, they arrive with no bill stub enclosed. This means you must rely on your customer to have entered their account number correctly. If not, time consuming research is required to locate the account number. Additionally, many customers, because they “paid online”, assume you will receive their payment immediately, not realizing a paper check must be printed and mailed.

I bank with Bank of America and they have recently changed their online bill pay process to more clearly identify which payments will be delivered electronically or by check. See the screen shot below for an example of a payment which will be delivered by paper check:

Online Banking Screenshot

Most banks don’t print their own online banking checks, preferring to outsource this process to a check processing service such as CheckFree or a division of MasterCard. These check processing services then print and mail the check to your office. However, if they detect additional checks scheduled to be mailed to your utility in the next day or two, they will often hold all these checks to mail in one large envelope, further delaying the delivery of your customer’s payment.

Electronic payment delivery

These check processing services deliver payments electronically to large volume payees such as large utilities, credit card and mortgage companies, but typically print checks for smaller volume recipients.

Fortunately for smaller utilities, there are payment processing vendors who expedite the process by aggregating payments from the check processors, deposit the funds in your account, and provide a file to be imported into your billing software.

Let’s examine some of the benefits of using an online banking check consolidator…

Improved cash flow

Rather than waiting a week, or longer, after your customer initiates payment to receive a check, with a payment consolidator you receive your funds much sooner, sometimes the next day.

Saves staff time

With a payment consolidator, you receive a file to be imported into your billing software. This saves the time of manually entering each payment.

If your customer entered an incorrect account number when setting up your utility as a payee, the payment won’t import correctly. Payment consolidators provide a way to enter the proper account number and have the system automatically correct the account number going forward. This saves your staff the time involved in researching account numbers each month.

Better customer relations

Because you receive the payment sooner, fewer customers receive late fees or are disconnected for non-payment, resulting in improved customer relations for your utility.

Are you interested in using a payment consolidator?

If you are still receiving online banking checks as paper checks, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com for more information about how a check consolidator could improve your operation.

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© 2016 Gary Sanders

How to make your customers happier

For the last eight years, Fiserv, a global company in the financial services industry, publishes an Annual Billing Household Survey. This survey reports trends in how consumers receive and pay their bills.

Past Utility Information Pipeline articles referenced this survey in 2012 and 2014. The Eighth Annual Billing Household Survey is now available and this issue will highlight a few statistics from it.

Customers want choices

This graphic, from page 20 of the report, highlights how offering different billing and payment options impact customer satisfaction (clicking on any of the graphics will open a larger image in a new window):

Customer Satisfaction Factors
 

Multiple payment options

Almost as if it were written for the audience of this blog, consider this quote from the graphic on page 21 of the report:

“The expectation of multiple payment options does not vary depending on the type of biller. In fact, consumers expect a local utility to provide the same options as a national wireless carrier or cable provider.”

As the graphic shows, 79% of customers expect your utility to provide the same options as much larger national companies:

Expectation of Multiple Payment Options
 

Preferred payment options

According to the survey respondents, as shown in the graphic below from page 8 of the report, the majority of online households prefer to pay their bill at your website, ahead of paying by check:

Online Household Payment Methods
 
In third place is paying the bill online at the customer’s financial institution website. The text accompanying this graphic says:

“Between the Seventh and Eighth Annual Billing Household Surveys, there was a 72 percent increase in consumers making payments at both biller and financial institution websites. Paying bills at a financial institution’s site also grew significantly by 55 percent.”

Clearly, the trend is toward paying bills online, whether that is your website or the customer’s financial institution’s website. The next Utility Information Pipeline issue will deal with automating payments made by your customers using their bank’s online bill pay.

Paperless billing

The final statistic I want to highlight is how important paperless billing is becoming to customers. The graphic pictured below, from page 14 of the report, shows that 79% of households receive some of their bills electronically, and 25% receive all bills paperlessly.

Paperless Billing Preferences
 
In addition, only 22% have no interest in going paperless! Clearly, paperless billing is the way of the future.

Are you offering your customers the choices they want?

Are you offering your customers all the payment options they desire? Are you offering paperless billing? If the answer to either question is “no”, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to learn how a business review could help you learn how your office could better meet your customer’s needs.
 

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© 2016 Gary Sanders