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Billing Experts Predict Consumers Will Be Driving Force Behind Payments Industry Changes in 2021

Billing Experts Predict Consumers Will Be Driving Force

As we near the end of 2020, the pandemic and its resulting economic fallout continue to wreak havoc: COVID-19 cases are increasing, raising concerns about an economic recession and instilling uncertainty among consumers about their financial security. In fact, 15 percent of consumers who responded to a recent ACI Speedpay Pulse survey reported that the pandemic was a direct factor in missing a bill payment. And of those consumers who currently have past-due payments, more than a third believe it will take them at least six months to catch up on late bills.

Adapting to changing consumer sentiment is key for billers, especially as customer experience continues to play a key role in trust and loyalty. This year has demonstrated just how much consumer sentiment is changing. How do we — both as billers and consumers — take the growing list of lessons learned from this challenging year and most effectively apply them? What other issues will we face? How can we help ease tremendous consumer concerns? To answer these questions, I gathered insights from some of our ACI experts, who shared their predictions and industry expectations for 2021.

2021 Will Be the Year for Real-Time Payments to Take Off in Certain Markets

“A major theme on the horizon will be the ability to make and receive payments instantaneously through real-time payments. We know that consumers have an appetite for faster transactions — according to our recent ACI Speedpay Pulse survey, 24 percent of consumers are frustrated by the length of time it takes for companies to process bill payments, with 26 percent saying they would consider changing their payments channel or method if it meant the payment would process faster. Real-time payments can help facilitate the immediate transactions that have become critical in supporting people’s daily lives, including disbursements from insurance companies and government aid. As billers are faced with a choice — adapt their offerings to changing consumer preferences or stick with the status quo — I expect the demand for and adoption of real-time payments to accelerate.”

Sanjay Gupta, Executive Vice President, Biller Solutions

Expect Big Steps toward Digital

“2021 will reaffirm and further accelerate the movement toward digital payments in the U.S. In an age when so many consumers expect an Amazon-like checkout experience — that is, quick and seamless — for every transaction, COVID-19 has expedited billers’ payment digitalization timelines. What they once planned for two years into the future, they’re realizing they need right now. And going digital isn’t limited to the array of online solutions billers might be most familiar with; I anticipate an even more drastic transition from “dialing for dollars” collections to virtual collection agent-type automated operations, especially as difficult times continue and customers require a more convenient and confidential response.”

Andrew Sajeski, Vice President, Solution Consulting

Flexibility Is Key to the Future of Payments

“After such an unprecedented year, I suspect that 2021 will bring a greater need for billers to act quickly to anticipate customers’ needs and provide the flexible solutions they have come to expect. In 2020, customer retention has been a direct result of a biller’s ability to evolve alongside consumers’ changing needs. For example, many auto insurers were quick to offer rebates or policy credits during the pandemic, when many people were under quarantine and driving less, in an effort to ease financial strain and discourage customers from switching providers. Trends around loan forgiveness and extensions will likely remain key differentiators as the pandemic continues to fuel uncertainty.”

Alexis Blackstead, Vice President Product Management

Connection to Customers Will Rule 2021

“In 2021, billers will have to think long and hard about how they connect with their consumers, especially those who are concerned about their finances. Customer sensitivity will be more important than ever — billers must relay empathy to customers, some of whom may be forced to prioritize payment of their bills to get by. For example, increasing interest on payments when so many are struggling to make ends meet will certainly come under fire. Conversely, billers may actually have an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction by implementing payment options that help payers to proactively delay or manage payments.”

David Baxter, Senior Vice President, Business Development 


As billers prepare for another year of uncertainty, they can find some of the answers they need by gaining greater insight into their customers’ preferences and behaviors. Whether it’s through customer support, payments flexibility, digital channels or adopting faster payment methods, billers must take the lead from customers—or risk getting left behind.

2020 has been a year like no other. What has this meant for billing and payments? Get more insights in the ACI Speedpay Pulse Report: Billing Payment Trends and Behaviors