3 Easy Ways to Quickly Build Your Online Billing and Payment Audience

April 8, 2013 Brian Watson

Building an EBPP audienceHaving trouble getting customer acceptance of your online billing and payment system?

Well, you’re not alone.  While online billing and payment is growing steadily, there are still a bunch of EBPP holdouts and fence-sitters out there.  Forrester Research reports that 65% of online consumers are non-adopters of online billing and payment.  Worse yet, two-thirds of that group have never tried it and never plan to.

In other words, while you and I know online billing and payment is chock full of reasons that should make switching a no-brainer, some of your customers still aren’t convinced.  And some don’t ever want to be.

That resistance keeps billers from realizing the benefits of EBPP: faster collections, lower statement preparation and delivery costs and improved customer service practices.

So what’s the solution?  How can you get unconvinced customers on the online billing and payment bandwagon?

Well, as anyone who’s ever tried to change people’s attitudes or behavior can attest, the status quo can be difficult to overcome.  Your customers might have a rational understanding that online billing and payment can save them time and money, but still decide to take the path of least resistance with mail-in or phone-based payment. 

Sometime people just need an extra shot of motivation.  But that rarely takes the form of a one-off statement insert or banner ad on your website.  Instead, companies that have experienced impressive adoption have usually worked at it – with help from marketing, finance and operations. 

What specific tools and techniques have they leaned on?  Read on for three tried-and-true strategies you can borrow to help get your online billing and payment system off the ground quickly.

Make Paperless Billing the Default Option

For most businesses, paper statement delivery is the de facto billing option provided to customers. 

But given the benefits for customers of online billing and payment – it’s fast, convenient, secure and efficient (no stamps!) – shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Why make it more difficult for customers to use the billing channel that’s more robust and feature-rich?

And more and more businesses are coming to that very conclusion. 

Sure, moving to paperless as the default billing option is an approach that has inherent risk.  As the data mentioned eariler from Forrester Research proves, there’s a portion of your audience that is simply not interested in online billing and payment.  And there's no point slowing revenue collection or increasing bad debt just to try to convince those customers that EBPP is the right billing choice.

But a smart customer enrollment process can address those risks in a way that still funnels the majority of consumers to the preferred online billing channel.  If you elect to try paperless billing as the default option, make sure that you:

• Give Customers Clear Notice.  There’s no need for subterfuge.  Make it completely transparent to new enrollees that they’ll be receiving an online statement unless they choose to opt out to paper statement delivery. 

• Sell the Benefits of Paperless.  Use your online billing and payment application’s pre-enrollment landing page to inform customers of what they’ll get from the switch to paperless: anytime/anywhere statement access, simple, automated payment tools and fast online customer support.

• Streamline Enrollment.  Make it fast and easy for new customers to receive paperless billing by keeping the sign-up process short and to-the-point.

• Make it easy to Opt Out.  It doesn’t do any good to keep a customer that’s completely against paperless billing enrolled in your online billing and payment program.  It’s frustrating for them.  And it can harm the effectiveness of your revenue cycle.  So provide them with a clear, up-front mechanism for opting out of paperless billing before it becomes a potential balance sheet problem.

Offer an Incentive

The easiest way to get customers to go paperless?  Make them an offer they can’t refuse. 

One suggestion that tends to get customers’ attention is offering a monetary reason to switch to paperless billing.  That could be a flat rebate – say $5.00 off their next bill – or a percentage discount taken off the overall balance due. 

Sure, it might sound strange to “pay” customers to use your EBPP application.  But consider it less a payment, more an investment. 

Online billing and payment not only helps you collect the revenue you’re owed more quickly.  It can also reduce statement processing and production cost by up to 50% - according to research from Federal Reserve Bank of New York economist Chris Stefanadis.

In other words, the lifetime value of moving a customer from paper statements to EBPP billing and payment more than makes up for the initial discount investment.

Leverage Your Paper Bills to Market Paperless Billing

Using balance-reducing incentives or simply making paperless billing your default statement presentment option is an effective way to route new customers into your online billing and payment workflow.

But what about existing customers? 

Sure, some will be tech-savvy or enthusiastic enough about online billing and payment to seek out your e-statement solution.  But others will be more than satisfied with traditional billing channels.  Unless you provide a compelling reason to change.

In an ironic twist, the best way to deliver that pro-paperless message to current customers just might be your traditional paper statements.  The thinking: each customer already receives a paper bill that they open and view prior to payment, providing a captive audience and near-universal reach that’s ideal for touting the benefits of your EBPP system.

• Statement Inserts.  Because they don’t take up valuable statement real estate, bill inserts are perfect for communicating ideas – like the benefits of EBPP - that aren’t easily summed up by just a headline and an image.  On the downside, they do require additional printing and insertion overhead.  To ensure that the extra cost is providing ROI, consider trying out a few different iterations and split-testing the options against each other, picking the winning insert that drives the most new enrollments.

• On-Statement Messaging.  Trans-promotional statement messaging has two main advantages over statement inserts.  One: there's no additional printing or processing costs.  And two: it’s actually on the statement.  So every customer that views your bill is also guaranteed to see your EBPP message.  To maximize sign-ups, be sure to keep a message promoting online billing and payment in your trans-promotional rotation. 

Need a little insider advice on building a best-class billing and payment system?  And then creating a strategy that convinces customers to actually use it?  Contact Elite today to schedule a free e-statement consultation.

What strategies are you using to convince customers to make the switch to your online billing and payment system?





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