Businesses may have various reasons for analyzing both customer preferences and their effectiveness when it comes to their choice of bill payment channel, but first and foremost they want to know how they can use this information to help them get paid as fast as possible. With that aim in mind, businesses are always looking for ways to help them better understand their customer’s bill payment choices, and the most important take away from that should be that offering their customers multiple payment channels that are available 24/7, benefits both them and their customers.
However, in attempting to gauge who uses what payment channel and why, the information available suggests that there is a significant correlation between the manner in which the customer receives their bill (either electronic or paper) and the payment method that they end up utilizing. In other words, the medium of delivery plays a key role in decision making. That’s because when it comes to paying bills customers are typically looking for speed, ease of use and convenience and that will vary depending on how the bill is delivered/received.
If the customer knows that s/he can pay their bill in a manner that is most convenient for them, it enhances satisfaction and loyalty which benefits the business as well. That is because offering bill payment channels that are easy and convenient means that the bills are apt to be paid sooner rather than later.
To begin with, as of 2018 roughly 2/3 of customers still receive paper communications of some kind whether they be bills, invoices, financial statements etc. Moreover, a recent survey by Consumer Action revealed that 38% of respondents prefer receiving their bills in the mail, compared to 26% who prefer digital and 36% who say their preference depends on the nature of the communication.
To understand this as it relates to customer convenience regarding bill payment, think of the processes involved when comparing e-bills to paper ones. For example, when a customer receives an electronic bill the statement is sent via email. At this point, any number of things may happen – it mistakenly goes to the Spam folder, it gets missed in the avalanche of other email the customer receives and so on but assuming neither of these happen, when they view the bill they are already logged in to their PC/Laptop/Tablet, etc. Usually, there is a link provided in the body of the email that the customer can click on to be taken directly to the payments page on the business’s website.
On the other hand, a paper bill that arrives in the mail, is physically opened and read by the customer. Assuming that there are multiple payment channels available, the customer will most likely choose to pay via the one that is quickest, easiest, and most convenient at the time. If an online payment option is available, it will require the customer to go to their computer, launch the browser and type in the web address provided. Once there they typically have to log in with a password and follow a series of steps in order to make a payment. On the other hand, if an IVR Payments (Pay By Phone) option is available they might decide instead to simply place a phone call. However, if the Pay By Phone option is only available during normal business hours when live staff are on duty, then it’s of limited convenience. As a result, the customer defers paying his or her bill until such time that it is more convenient for them.
Ideally, when there are multiple bill payment channels available, they should all be as fast and convenient as possible. For example, with respect to the pay over the phone option, unless there is an automated IVR Payment system in place that enables customers to pay their bills 24/7 (for example,
to pay by phone 24/7 call 800-###-####), they will defer payment until they can a) Go online, b) Try calling back another day during business hours, c) Mail a check. In each of these examples, payments that could have been received immediately are delayed. Study after study has shown that 30-40% of customers prefer to be able to pay bills outside of normal business hours, so having that option available is going to be very popular and WILL be utilized to the business’s and the customer’s mutual benefit. Customers have convenience and ease of use and businesses will get paid faster.