Utility bills – gas, electric, water – make up nearly a quarter of all bills U.S. consumers pay each month, yet the way consumers pay their utility bills is more traditional (ex: paper check and in-person) than how they pay their mortgage and insurance premiums. Although it’s up to the consumer to ultimately change their financial habits, there are many benefits associated with switching from more traditional means of bill presentment and payment to digital and mobile billing and payment offerings.
Digital is fast and with just a few clicks on a smartphone or computer, a bill can be accessed and paid fast. Digital offerings are also convenient, allowing consumers to view and pay their bills 24/7/365. Additionally, digital is easy. With emails and digital wallet technology providing reminders for when a bill is available, it’s simple for consumers to pay their monthly bills.
So, what can utility providers do to encourage their customers to become more comfortable with newer payment technologies?
Over half of utilities consumers are still receiving paper bills. Many still pay by check.
Despite the prevalence of eBilling, a majority (53 percent) of consumers are still mailed a paper utility bill statement each month – an additional 11.5 percent receive both digital and paper statements. Moreover, the number of consumers who prefer receiving digital bill statements only slightly outweighs the number that prefer paper.
Additionally, according to data from Speedpay® Pulse, a recent survey of at least 3,000 U.S. adults who are responsible for two or more household payments a month, on average consumers pay utility bills with paper check and cash more frequently than they pay other bills like car insurance or mortgage payments. Even paying in-person at a biller’s office is more popular with utility bills – especially for water or sewage – than in other industries. This may be because the utility industry hasn’t focused on communicating the benefits of switching to digital payment offerings, or perhaps consumers are just used to paying their bill this way, because they always have.
Here’s what utility providers can do.
Utility providers don’t need any convincing that eBilling and mobile payments offer much more efficient processes than paper billing and mailing a check. From lower days sales outstanding (DSO) to increased customer self-service and a smaller environmental footprint, there isn’t much of a reason to stick to paper and snail mail. For consumers, there are just as many benefits, including convenience, speed and ease of use.
Here are a few things utility providers can do to communicate these benefits to their customers.
For the busy bee: From school to work, to parent-teacher conferences, most bill-paying adults are swamped. Maybe they’re aware of the benefits of going paperless, but they haven’t had a chance to switch to online billing or set up their mobile wallet. For these individuals, utility providers should be sure to emphasize convenience, speed and simplicity in customer communications. By making bill pay less of a burden, digital billing and payments can make these consumers’ lives a little easier.
For the consumer stuck in their old habits: Some consumers are merely stuck in their ways when it comes to paying their bills. They’ve always received their utility statement in the mail and they’ve always sent back a check. Their paper statements often also serve as a physical reminder and this paper trail gives them peace of mind, according to Speedpay® Pulse. To get these consumers to make the switch from paper to digital, utility providers should be sure to remove barriers to adoption by including easy opt-in options for paperless billing and online bill pay through email communications. Providers can also train customer service representatives to offer to enroll a consumer in paperless billing and online bill pay while they’re on the phone with them. Additionally, it’s important to emphasize that text and email alerts can serve as reminders in place of paper statements – and given that most adults are on their phones pretty regularly, a text or email reminder can be even more reliable.
For the young consumer: Consumer brands have been known to appeal to younger generations’ environmental awareness. The same strategy can also work when convincing consumers to make the transition from paper to digital bill presentment and payment. And the proof is in the numbers – according to Speedpay® Pulse, 34.9 percent of consumers who already receive their bill digitally say they do so because it’s eco-friendly. When speaking to this audience, utility providers should be sure to tout how going paperless and paying bills online helps the company be just a little more eco-conscious.
Interested in learning more? Click here to read the full Speedpay® Pulse research report.
 Speedpay Pulse, 2018 Speedpay Pulse, 2018