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IVR Payments Customer Adoption Study

Recently, Datatel compiled customer adoption data on one of its clients that had recently implemented an IVR Payments/Pay By Phone solution to help them remove live agents from handling credit card information and offer their customer the ability to pay their bills by phone 24/7. Over the course of the first three (3) months, customer preferences for bill paying methodology appeared to undergo a significant transformation, the whys of which are still in the process of being determined at the time this analysis was prepared, but which have important implications in the event that they are indicative of a long-term trend.

By way of background explanation, Automated Pay-By-Phone (A.K.A. IVR Payments) is a technology that allows customers to make bill payments by interacting with an automated phone system using their telephone’s keypad.

IVR Payments/Automated Pay-By-Phone come in different flavors. In the case being examined the client chose to offer its clients the following options:

  1. A 24/7 Self-service – with no agent involvement
  2. Agent assisted/transferred – where the agent first speaks to the customer and then transfers the customer to the automated pay-by-phone system

Self Service vs. Agent Assisted/Transfer:

In the case of Self-Service IVR Payments, the customer calls the business main phone # and chooses payments or make a payment or a similar option from the business auto attendant menu. The company’s phone system then transfers the call to the Cloud-based IVR Payment system, where the customer can make a payment using their credit card with the transaction processed in real-time to the business’ payment processor and the payment results posted in real time to the business.

With agent-assisted/transferred payments, the customer’s call is answered by a live agent, who then transfers the call to the IVR Payment platform without handling any actual credit card information.

In this specific case being examined, the company in question opted for the combination of both methods based on its business requirements. Initially, when the company began offering the Pay-By-Phone option to its customers, the majority chose to speak to an agent by an overwhelming margin. In the first month that Pay By Phone was available to customers, 98% of the payment calls made were being handled by agents who then transferred the call when it came time for the customer to enter their credit card information.

By the second month, while there was a noticeable increase in the number of self-service payment calls, the agent- assisted calls were still nearly 90% of the total. However, by the 3rd full month of their Automated Pay-By-Phone being available to customers there was a much sharper uptick in the number of Self-Service calls being placed, to the extent that THEY now constituted a significant majority of the payment calls, by a margin of 70% (Self-Service) to 30% (Agent Assisted/Transferred)

IVR Payments Study

The reasons(s) for this dramatic upsurge of Self-Service transaction is still being analyzed, and it’s still early in the cycle of this particular business’s IVR PBP adoption to know with certainty whether this portends a permanent trend, but assuming for the moment that the third month numbers are reflective of what will be a continuing state of affairs and that the customer preference for self-service payment calls will continue to increase, what does this mean for the business?

What are the implications for this business and others like it?

For starters, the numbers would seem to suggest that at some point that customers became more widely aware that there was a fully automated self-service option available for bill payments and opted for the speed and convenience of this option. Should this continue to be the case, this presents the business with the opportunity to re-calibrate their approach to staffing. If they are deploying staff solely for the purpose of processing payment calls, then fewer such staff will be needed, or they can be redeployed to assist in other areas of the business where their time can be spent more productively. If their staff that are answering the phone have additional duties other than handling payment calls, then the increasing popularity of self-service payment calls means again that either (a) fewer of them will be required or (b) they can now spend more time on those duties that are neglected during the times of the day/month that the bulk of bill payment calls occur. Either way, the adoption here of an automated pay by phone strategy to handle bill payments has enabled the business to realize a significant cost benefit, either in the form of lower overall labor costs or a more efficient utilization of existing personnel to shore up and/or grow and improve other areas of the business, as well as providing their customers with a more convenient and secure method of paying their bills.

Moreover, the data also suggests that when presented with a convenient and automated method of bill paying, customers are going to opt to use it in significant numbers. Over time, this will more than justify the effort involved in adopting such a technology in the first place.

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