The Next Frontier in Delivering Outstanding Customer Experiences
- December 21, 2018
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New technologies continue to reinvent every aspect of our industry, from how energy is generated to how providers market their services. One significant unmet area of innovation pertains to the customer experience. Many energy providers are behind in matching modern customer experience expectations, particularly with billing and payment options.
Energy providers have the opportunity to better serve customers, empowering them to manage bills and make payments where, and when they prefer. Today, as consumers increasingly rely on the speed and convenience of online and mobile channels to manage and pay bills, providing an experience that fits their busy lives increases their engagement with vendors.
Energy providers can gain competitive advantages by meeting these consumer expectations and fostering a digital relationship that goes far beyond just receiving and paying bills. It's also an opportunity to reach a broader segment of customers, expand brand awareness and increase wallet share with everything from upsells to tools that help customers better manage their money and reduce the occurrence of late payments.
Improving Connected Payment Experiences
The number of consumer payment options is expanding as innovation and consumer adoption accelerate across digital, mobile and social channels. From the major ecosystem "Pays," such as Apple and Android, to merchant-branded retail payments apps, payments are becoming integral to the services people use every day.
Many consumers expect the ability to transact that way with every vendor. This behavioral shift has profound implications for every business, including energy providers.
Consumers expect to use the payment providers and channels of their choice. For an increasing number of customers, this means accepting payments from the above mentioned non-traditional financial services operated by technology brands such as Apple Pay. Data shows that 55 percent of customers not already using technology companies to pay bills would be comfortable making payments in this way, compared to 40 percent of this consumer audience last year, according to Fiserv research, “Expectations & Experiences: Channels and New Entrants”
Additional Fiserv research from the “Expectations & Experiences: Consumer Payments” report found that current mobile wallet users have increased their usage by 53 percent and current mobile bill payers have increased their usage by 48 percent. Automatic payments are also highly popular, with 67 percent of consumers utilizing this vehicle for household bill management, among consumers involved in household bill management.
And while consumers demonstrate recurrent payment preferences, these behaviors can fluctuate based on day-to-day needs. For example, one customer may prefer to pay by paper check nearly every month, but still needs the flexibility of mobile payments when on vacation or traveling for work. Energy providers must also accommodate for emergency payment options, providing rapid ways for customers to make last-minute payments in-person or via IVR to prevent costly shut-offs.
Emerging Billing Preferences
Just providing web portal and mobile payment apps are no longer enough. Consumers continue to explore new options, and express new preferences in an innovation-driven culture. Some consumers are beginning to favor biometrics to make purchases. Others are using voice-activated systems and AI to authorize transactions. These new experiences will influence how consumers expect to engage with energy providers.
Enhanced Security and Trust
As energy providers offer new channels to receive and pay bills, security at each step is an absolute necessity. It goes hand-in-hand with enhancing customer experiences and maintaining trust. Cyber security, fraud prevention and regulatory compliance must remain top-of-mind for utilities to protect against missteps that can damage their business and the often fragile customer relationships.
The growing demand for heightened security raises an important question for utilities: How will your organization safeguard data and transactions while providing a frictionless experience?
Consumer behavior statistics can help understand customer comfort levels and preferences pertaining to security. 48 percent of consumers perceive credit cards as the most secure payment method, followed by ACH debit payments (37 percent). In terms of channels to pay and receive bills, postal mail is seen as the most secure way to receive bills by 52 percent of consumers, followed by the provider’s website (31 percent).
To meet these preferences, energy providers can utilize APIs that enable outstanding customer experiences while working with trusted third-party partners to maintain security. It's an approach that meets customer needs while protecting the financial data.
The Rewards of a Strong Consumer Experience
Bill presentment and payment are critical recurring touchpoints with customers, and each month provides a new opportunity for energy providers to fortify these business relationships.
What matters most across channels is providing easy-to-use, secure, flexible experiences that consumers demand. The key is a simple and seamless user experience. And, throughout the billing lifecycle, that means getting these critical components right, every time.
By providing consumers with the ability to engage and pay bills whenever, however and wherever it's most convenient, providers can gain the benefits of providing highly desirable customer experiences.