By - Jim Vess

2018 Trends in Billing and Payments: Enhancing the Customer Experience

Energize Weekly, December 20, 2017

Consumers want to pay their bills whenever, however and wherever it’s most convenient for them. Billers will spend the coming year finding new ways to enhance the customer experience by providing that flexibility.

People are on the go, and their baseline expectation is that their bills can go with them. Mobile bill pay, either through biller apps or consumers’ financial institutions, is standard across the market, and recent quarterly consumer research by Fiserv confirms it. The Expectations & Experiences: Consumer Payments survey showed mobile bill pay is now used by 65 percent of mobile bankers.

Billers, though, know consumers expect more than mobility. People want seamless, hassle-free experiences that mirror the satisfaction they get when they use, for instance, Amazon. They want freedom to pay their bills at a biller’s website, through their financial institutions, with a phone app or through their digital wallet. They want the flexibility to use a credit card, debit card, ACH or cash. They want to control the amount and decide whether it’s a one-time or auto payment. And they expect reliable and timely alerts and notifications no matter the channel.

Billers’ focus on meeting those consumer expectations will spur multiple trends in 2018. Here are three to watch:

1. Enhanced Security and Trust

As you open more channels for people to receive and pay bills, security at each step is an absolute necessity. It goes hand in hand with enhancing customers’ experiences and maintaining their trust.

Cyber security, fraud prevention and compliance will remain top of mind for billers in the coming year to protect against missteps that can damage the business and customer relationships. That focus, though, raises an important question for billers: How does our organization maintain security while providing a frictionless experience?

The Expectations & Experiences research showed 27 percent of consumers paid bills at a biller’s online or mobile website in the preceding month. When those consumers are ready to pay, the last thing a biller wants is for them to get redirected to a new website and be left to wonder, “Can I trust this?”

Each biller will have to determine how it will balance risk and the consumer experience. Look for billers to turn more often to APIs that enable promoting the experience they want to deliver while letting a third party maintain security. It’s an approach that meets consumer expectations for that seamless experience.

2. Stronger Avenues for Digital Engagement

When consumers can receive and pay bills through their phones, the experience intensifies consumer engagement and, by extension, drives more revenue and stronger loyalty.

That engagement is already happening, and it will be amplified in the coming year as more billers strengthen their mobile presence. For example, the telecommunications industry is much further ahead than utilities, which are ahead of lenders.

The ability to be with consumers wherever and whenever opens the door to create a digital relationship that goes beyond receiving and paying bills. It’s an opportunity to reach a broader segment of customers and expand an organization’s messaging, whether that focuses on other products and services or providing tools to help people better manage their money.

3. Connected Payment Experiences

The number of options for how people can make payments is expanding as innovation and consumer adoption accelerate in digital, mobile and social channels. From the major ecosystem “Pays,” such as Apple and Android, to merchant-branded retail payments apps and even Venmo and Facebook, payments are becoming integral to the services people use every day.

That has profound implications for billers. Once people get comfortable with a payment method, they expect to be able to transact that way in every other aspect of their lives. For example, people are starting to like using their fingerprints to make purchases, and they may expect that capability in other payment circumstances.

Those experiences will affect what people expect from their billers. Whether consumers are paying at a website, using Apple Pay®, asking Alexa or transacting in-person at the local supermarket, billers have an opportunity to enhance satisfaction and improve profitability by meeting people where they are. Creating those connected payments experiences across channels requires a flexible technology infrastructure, network scale and strong partnerships.

The Rewards of a Strong Customer Experience

Enhancing the billing and payment experience for consumers is far more than a single trend for the coming year. It will come in various shapes and sizes, both behind the scenes and in highly visible ways. But there’s a common theme tying it all together: meeting people wherever, whenever and however they want.

To learn more about billing and payments, check out EUCI’s Billing and Payments for Utilities Conference taking place February 12-13, 2018 in New Orleans, LA.

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