Western Union Payments

eBilling Best Practices – Are You Covered?

Learn how push and pull eBilling options can work together – and do more work for you.

​As more people use electronic devices to manage their finances, companies have a growing number of ways to encourage customers to abandon paper bills in favor of electronic billing.

For example, some companies are adopting the “push” strategy, which allows customers to receive and pay their bills through an encrypted email attachment. This tends to be a highly convenient mode of bill presentment and payment, and can result in more paperless customers.

Push contrasts with the more traditional “pull strategy,” where customers are instructed to visit a biller’s website to view and pay their bills. This can be inconvenient for customers since it requires them to proactively register for and log into a separate service every time they need to pay a bill online.

Although push has several advantages over pull, these strategies are not mutually exclusive. In fact, push and pull eBilling can complement one another by helping billers offer a wider variety of payment options. After all, different payment strategies will resonate with different customer segments.

For example, instead of abandoning a pull eBilling plan with marginal adoption rates, billers can simply add a push eBilling plan to their mix of payment options. By taking this approach, billers can improve the payment experience for some customers without causing frustration among others.

Billers can also use tools to speed customer adoption of eBilling. With the traditional method, the “opt-in” approach, billers send customers paper bills until they proactively opt in to receive electronic bills.

With the alternative “opt-out” method, companies stop sending paper bills altogether. If a customer wants to receive a paper bill, he or she needs to take action, such as checking a box on the biller’s website. This approach tends to be extremely effective in creating eBill converts.

In fact, more than one-third of companies that use an opt-out eBill strategy say they expect to reach a “tipping point” in 2012 where eBills are more popular than paper bill payments, according to the NACHA/Blueflame study. In contrast, only 2 percent of companies that use an opt-in eBill strategy anticipate reaching that same tipping point this year.

“Companies do a lot better when they get consumers to opt into paper rather than opt out of paper,” says Ed Bachelder, director of research at Blueflame Consulting, LLC, which specializes in consulting and strategic research for large billers, payment processors, utility companies and financial services organizations.

However, companies need to be cautious about moving too quickly when trying to eradicate paper. Transitioning to eBilling before a customer is ready can result in a bad experience for the customer.

“You can’t just flip a switch and expect it to work,” Bachelder says. “You really need to have the customer on board with the concept.”

So, how do you get the customer on board? Paper notices are common, but not always effective. Bachelder suggests using an informed customer-relations staff to educate customers about eBilling when they happen to call the company for other inquiries, such as service issues or billing questions.

In the weeks or months leading up to an opt-out strategy, every customer-facing communication should educate people about the impending changes. Email notices, website callouts and customer service representatives should communicate the change to existing customers.

Bachelder says companies should observe a “patience period,” where customers are given leeway if something goes wrong with their payment. “You just have to make sure that people understand it and that it’s an easy experience,” he says. “Paying bills isn’t always fun. Generally the faster, the easier, the better.”