While mobile payments continue to gain momentum, many consumers still utilize traditional payment methods to pay their utility bills. In fact, our recent research revealed that on average, consumers pay their utility bills with paper check and cash more frequently than they do other bills, including mortgage payments, auto finance, and consumer finance bills. This consumer preference highlights an ongoing opportunity for utilities to introduce consumers to the benefits associated with utilizing newer payment technologies.

In order to provide its clients with the most innovative payment offerings possible, in 2018, Speedpay formed a strategic alliance with Beguided, Inc., a technology company that provides enterprise solutions for increased customer engagement. This relationship allowed Speedpay to offer a tailored payments solution to its client, American telecommunications company CenturyLink, by fully integrating Beguided’s patent-protected Avapay solution, a proprietary avatar-guided payment channel, into its platform. Avapay offers customers a unique and efficient payments experience that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to power self-service platforms and is available 24 hours a day to ensure customers can pay their bills at their own convenience. Through the integration, clients can reduce inbound call center volumes, boost early-stage collections, and cut down 30-, 60-, and 90-day delinquency rates. 

How Marlie is Setting the Standard

A recurring issue in the payments industry is late payments; consumers are late to make payments and may be subject to associated fees, and, in turn, billers receive payments far past their expected due date. According to Forbes, one in three Americans is late when paying a bill.

To help improve the payments process, CenturyLink chose to adopt Avapay. CenturyLink worked closely with Beguided to design the avatar for a virtual agent named Marlie, a multilingual woman who is now the face of CenturyLink’s payment acceptance capabilities. The company also utilized Speedpay’s expertise to determine the role Marlie plays in the collections process and ensure that she has the capability to adapt to human directives. Now, Marlie collects customer information, feedback, and processes payments rapidly. 

To help reduce days sales outstanding, Marlie is responsible for sending email notifications when customers are more than 90 days late. These emails contain a picture of Marlie, and when customers click on the link, Marlie speaks directly with them to inform them of their overdue payment. Marlie also negotiates and handles customer payment plans. Due to the implementation of Marlie, CenturyLink has generated positive customer reviews as well as reduced calls to the call center.

Despite cash and check serving as popular methods for making utility bill payments, the digital payments landscape is always changing. It’s recommended that companies consider adopting and embracing new technological payment offerings to better serve their customers’ needs. Many customers are looking for a quick, seamless payments experience, available at their own convenience, and CenturyLink has provided just that by implementing this innovative technology.

To learn more about Speedpay and Beguided’s strategic alliance, visit speedpay.com.