For billers across industries – from utilities and higher education institutions to insurance companies and consumer finance – it’s not enough to be purely transactional in their offerings. Rather, they should strive to improve the billing and payments experience by presenting digital, real-time (or near-real-time) and convenient options that are so seamless that customers hardly have to think about them.
Focusing on consumer preferences to improve customer experience
With customer experience serving as the driving force behind so many aspects of business success, what factors should decision makers consider when striving to meet customer expectations
- Current and future behaviors
According to the ACI Speedpay Pulse, one in four consumers has increased their usage of a biller’s website to pay bills over the last year, while one in five has decreased their payments delivered through the mail or in person at the biller’s physical location. By incorporating options for digital and/or real-time payments in other channels, such as mobile, companies are making a necessary investment to meet consumers where they are – and deliver an experience that fits their current behaviors.
Additionally, it’s important that billers have an eye towards the future, especially as the global pandemic continues to change the billing and payments landscape. Drawing on our learnings from the 2008 economic recession, it’s likely that there will be an uptick in debt-averse consumers choosing to pay with debit cards over credit cards. Billers should be prepared for this shift in consumer behavior by ensuring this payment method is readily available.
- Customer preferences and needs
In addition to keeping a pulse on consumer behaviors, billers across all industries need to understand their customers’ preferences to ensure they are delivering and communicating the options they seek. Our ACI Speedpay Pulse survey shows that nearly 40 percent of consumers sent a payment by mail in the past year, but less than 14 percent actually prefer this method, indicating that consumers either don’t have other options or aren’t aware of them. In addition to offering the payment methods their customers desire, billers also need to educate consumers on the variety of ways to pay and benefits of each method.
Furthermore, given the economic impact of the pandemic, consumers expect (and need) empathy and flexibility now more than ever – meaning billers should be prepared to not only provide diverse payment methods, but also lead with sensitivity when determining company policy. This includes offering “delay my pay” or forgiveness options, which will go a long way in sowing consumer trust and ensuring long-term retention of customers.
- Outside threats
As much as businesses can strive for positive customer relations, outside factors might come into play. These uncontrollable variables have been at the forefront of the industry throughout 2020, as we have seen an uptick in the sophistication of fraud and an increase in vulnerability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers often seize on such crisis situations to prey on consumers, and with many call center employees working remotely, there is a heightened risk for PCI risk exposure.
As cybercrime grows, security throughout the billing and payments process is critical. When a customer’s money is stolen, or personal information is compromised, blame typically lands on the company rather than the perpetrator – a perception that requires billers to implement a security strategy and educate their customers about how their financial data is being protected.
The responsible party
If customer experience is truly the force behind business decisions and investments, who exactly is responsible for owning and improving upon that experience? Is it the business or organization that consumers are receiving a service from, or is it the third-party vendors that support and interact with that company? The answer is it’s all of them.
Customer experience is a multi-dimensional relationship between many parties. While companies often take a public-facing role in customer experience, the vendors and providers behind the scenes have an important part to play as well – so companies have a responsibility to invest in and focus on the experience during every step of the customer journey.
To give customers the best experience possible, billers must partner with solution providers that are committed to those same goals. Ideally, the billing and payments provider should offer the channels and methods that customers prefer while also partnering with the biller to ensure consumers are aware of the options and understand the benefits of each.
If you’re looking to up the ante for customers when it comes to their bill payments experience, learn more about our solutions and contact an ACI representative today. As payment experts, we partner with our customers and provide tools to ensure you have the messaging and resources to drive awareness of your payment solutions.