Utility providers rely heavily on third-party vendors to ensure their customers receive the assistance they need and the payments experience they expect. As the industry looks to step up its game, market leaders are focused on upgrading the full end-to-end customer experience. And when it comes to improving payment experiences (especially in today’s climate), utilities and third-party providers really need to be aware of consumers’ current billing and payment practices and preferences, and attitudes toward emerging technologies.
Based on results from more than 3,000 bill-paying respondents, the ACI Speedpay Pulse report identifies the following trends in billing and payments that have implications for the utilities sector.
The digital age
Utility companies have an opportunity as their customers increasingly transition billing and payments activity to digital channels. According to the ACI Speedpay Pulse report, 34 percent of consumers use a company’s website to pay the majority of one-time utility bills.
More than one in five consumers increased their usage of the company’s website to pay in the past year, making it the payments channel most frequently used (58.8%) across industries.
As for payment methods, the current state of the economy is stretching budgets for many, driving them to use credit cards more frequently to pay utility bills, reversing a long-term trend of declining usage. Billing preferences are also increasingly digital, and in the next 12 months, 33 percent of consumers expect to use digital billing statements more frequently. When asked why, their primary answers included convenience (50.3%), urgency or speed (47.5%) and simplicity (43.4%).
In line with these trends, utility companies must embrace digital channels – for bill presentment and for payments – as well. After all, speed, simplicity and convenience help improve customer retention.
The future is mobile
The continued rise of the mobile channel also presents opportunities for the utilities sector. According to the report, only 4.2 percent of consumers currently use a company’s mobile app or a mobile wallet to pay the majority of their one-time utility bills. However, usage of a company’s mobile app across industries has increased from 18.5 percent in 2018 to 21 percent in the last year. Over the next 12 months, nearly 23 percent of consumers anticipate using mobile alerts more often. As utility companies’ mobile apps become more established as a channel of communication and information, it is likely that usage of these apps for billing and payments will also increase.
Mobile wallet payments are also on the rise. Two in five survey respondents who have used a mobile wallet have also paid a bill through it. In a significant increase from 2018, more than one in three say they would consider using a mobile wallet to pay future bills. The increase in popularity and adoption of mobile wallets can be linked back to seamless enrollment processes and notification communications, among other factors.
The direction of mobile payment trends is clear. Utility companies have an opportunity to adapt and evolve with their customers’ changing preferences, which ultimately benefits both sides.
Real-time payments capabilities, such as Request for Payment, integrated platforms and virtual assistants will continue to alter the payments and billing landscape. Utility companies should monitor evolving consumer preferences and embrace adaptability. This way, utilities can walk with their customers into the future, instead of running after them.