It is never particularly enjoyable to receive a bill. However, by improving the way in which consumers review and process monthly billing statements, utility companies can transform this stressful endeavor into something they — and the consumer — can benefit from.
A study conducted by The United States Energy Information Administration found that the average American household spends over $400 a month on utilities. Payments for electricity, gas, internet, water, cable, and trash are often required at different times, issued through separate providers, and total varying amounts. All of this can add up to a pile of paperwork, missed payments, and unhappy customers. The following three tips can help you streamline your utility billing services, improve consumer satisfaction, and increase collection rates.
1. Save Money by Outsourcing Statement Printing and Mailing Services
Third-party vendors that specialize in print and mailing services are given bulk discounts due to the sheer volume of products they require. By outsourcing your utility billing services to seasoned vendors, you can lower administration costs and pass on these discounts to your customers. Not only can utility companies benefit from discounts — they can lower administrative costs, increase security, and reinforce marketing strategies.
Hiring in-house staff to oversee printing and mailing services is not always the most cost-effective solution for utility companies. Time spent processing payments and chasing unpaid invoices keeps employees from addressing more pressing issues faced by consumers. By outsourcing utility billing services, the attention of in-house employees can be redirected to more urgent issues. Superfluous roles can be reduced, saving companies money by minimizing the need for full- or part-time staff to conduct these duties in-house. As a result, training costs are reduced as staff are not required to learn new billing protocols or stay up-to-date with mailing software.
A study conducted by Consumer Action found that 63% of respondents preferred receiving utility bills by mail. One of the reasons why consumers prefer this method may be due to the fear of data breaches. Ensuring that a consumer’s data is secure is a top priority for many companies, especially when it comes to sending sensitive billing information online or through the mail. Third-party vendors that are HITRUST CSF-certified protect both consumers and companies from a potential breach. By hiring certified vendors, utility companies can offer services with heightened security and gain the valuable trust of customers.
Useful Marketing Inserts
Third-party vendors can add useful policy or marketing inserts alongside billing statements, such as updates to compliance measures, location changes, new services, special offers, or seasonal wishes. By sending these additional materials alongside standard mailouts, you can utilize the consumer’s attention and increase the probability that the content is read and absorbed.
2. Introduce Various Payment Options to Your Customers
It is no secret that consumers enjoy having more options for paying bills. The best utility billing services provides consumers with a variety of payment options, such as QR code scans, mobile applications, online portals, payment plans, and the ability to keep credit cards on file. By offering multiple solutions, utility companies can increase collection rates and improve customer experience.
Despite the fact that 63% of utility customers favor paper statements, over half of Americans still pay their bills online. These trends have created a surge in modern payment solutions, such as payment plans, text-to-pay options, online portals, and mobile applications. In contrast, a 2018 Pew Research study revealed that one-third of Americans do not have access to the internet. As a result, these consumers would need access to more traditional payment methods, such as checks. Third-party billing services have the ability to respond to these varying needs and provide payment solutions to fit every customer.
Offer Payment Plans
Another common payment technique used throughout various industries is payment plans. Holding a credit card on file will allow utility companies to charge (with approval) small, agreed-upon balances over a set time period to slowly pay down their balance. Providing this payment option helps reduce the stress of large, daunting bills and improves customer experience.
Paperless statements tick more than just the ‘green’ box. As access to online portals and mobile applications increases, consumers are more likely to visit, review, and even pay bills via a smartphone or computer. Utility companies can take advantage of these tools and create user-friendly experiences for all of their customers. The savings associated with not using paper products can be fed back into the company or passed on to the consumer.
3. Improve Your Statement Design
An effective statement design that uses carefully placed graphics and integrated color schemes to highlight vital data can help reduce confusion and prompt faster payment.
Clear, simple layouts with straightforward language help consumers better understand their financial responsibilities and select the payment option best suited for them. Third-party vendors have the expertise to create user-friendly bills that draw on key tendencies in human behavior. For example, consistency in design translates to familiarity. If a patient becomes familiar with the bill’s design and intent, he or she may be more inclined to trust the source and pay on time.
Consolidated information can help clarify the information and ensure that all elements of a bill are accounted for, such as current fees and late payments. A study conducted by Consumer Action found that 78% of respondents read the transactions printed on their paper statements. The opportunity to consolidate this data and guide consumers through the information on their bills with graphics and clear language translates into quicker payments.
Maintain Consistent Branding
Consumers may find it hard to differentiate between one utility bill and the next. Without clear visual branding, companies are missing the opportunity to build trust and familiarity with customers through their communications. A design that incorporates a logo and custom color palette helps the billing statement stand out and increases brand awareness.
By following these three simple steps, you can save money, boost collection rates, and build trust between you and your consumers.
Michael Bell is the Chief Marketing Officer for MailMyStatements. Mike is a dynamic, innovative thinker, a healthcare technology advocate, a consumer, a patient, and an avid golfer.
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