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How to get more people enrolled in electronic billing

Published on 27 Jan 2009
eBilling Success Stories

Globally, high-volume billers have spent millions implementing online billing portals, as an evolutionary way in which consumers and corporates can view and pay their recurring bills and invoices. There have been very few success stories, however. In the UK, almost 13 billion items of B2C paper mail items are still mailed every year, at a postage cost of £1.8bn – that’s 270 million items every single week.  Clearly ebilling has not met its promises and this lack of expected results has harmed the perception of the concept for many.

What if it was not the concept that was at fault but the model?

A recent Jupiter Media report shows that over 95% of all users’ time spent connected to the Internet is on handling email. Email continues to be the communication medium of choice, yet most billers are focused on Internet website presentment. Traditional online billing portals, whilst straight-forward to implement for the biller, lack the key prerequisites of simplicity and ease-of-use for the customer. Remembering a complex, system-generated username and password, keying these in without error and then navigating through a maze of web pages to find the relevant ebill has kept would-be users of online billing away in their droves. This model of insisting that recipients must fetch their billing data is akin to the postal service asking us to collect our letters and mail from various warehouses around the country.

Security fears, such as Phishing and Identity Theft, are still hindering online portals. In addition, marketers are having difficulty effectively communicating the benefits to the consumer. Consumers have responded to this user unfriendly use of technology by shunning all incentives to enroll in any ebilling program. It is evident that offering an incentive, equivalent to the savings achieved with ebilling, is insufficient to compensate the user for the inconvenience of collecting their bill from an online portal.

As pressure to cut operational costs mounts in the growing financial turmoil, there are signs that billers are once again beginning to take the issue of electronic communication in general and ebilling in particular, seriously. eBilling is starting to receive top-level, board-room attention. However this time, they’re taking into account the customer’s basic requirements for adopting ebilling: simplicity, ease-of-use and security.

These findings are confirmed by analysts. In a 2008 paper entitled “Pulling The Plug On Paper Statements”, Emmett Higdon of Forrester writes:

“While customers are willing to go paperless, Forrester believes they will not take the initiative to eliminate paper. Customers have had the option to turn off paper for several years now. Few do. Further, we have found that:

  • 84% of consumers still receive paper statements
  • 70% can be convinced to give up paper for electronic
  • 35% would turn off paper if eStatement printing was easy
  • 33% would turn off paper if saving it locally was easy

Customers have shown that they are ready to abandon paper. They just need a push.”

There are several ways for billers to ensure that a large percentage of customers migrate to ebilling. There should be no upfront customer registration, and no need for a customer to visit a website. Customers should not require more than a dial-up connection, and should not have to remember a username and password. The ebill should look the same as the paper bill that customers are used to, and they should be able to view and pay it online in under 30 seconds, or save it and pay it later.

So, the answer is to change the model. Instead of trying to change customer behaviour, simply participate in their daily routine, by sending their ebill to their inbox. Email billing has a fundamental advantage in that the biller can control the adoption rates and rollout. All that is required is the customer’s email address.

As long as you are expecting your customers to proactively do something to turn off paper, it’s simply not going to happen! Make participation easy and adoption rates will increase to the benefit of both your business and your customers. After all, the benefits of electronic billing are significant:

  • Instant bill delivery, instead of the typical 3 – 5 day print and mail cycle;
  • Up to 80% saving on presentment and fulfillment;
  • Quicker payment and reduced DSO (Days Sales Outstanding);
  • Customer behavior visibility through detailed email tracking;
  • Lowest possible cost of payment processing;
  • Fewer payment exceptions.

eBilling can still deliver – the key is in the delivery of the bills. Sending an encrypted electronic bill directly to the recipient’s inbox is the most effective method to get more people enrolled in electronic billing.