According to Chartwell, Inc. research, these top customer experience trends will be the most influential across the industry over the next ten years:
- Improving the “ease of doing business”
- Mobile technology
- Proactive customer contact
With consumers often pressed for time, utilities are seeking ways to improve their business models and make customer engagement easier – whether it’s paying a bill, checking on an outage or ordering new services. Scott Johnson, Vice President at Chartwell, explains, “Given the uniqueness of the utility industry, and the revenue model and regulatory constraints that many are under, utilities can still offer a superior customer experience similar to other leading industries – and bills and payments are a good place to start.”
Following are the top billing and payment trends, according to the Chartwell 2017 Billing Survey.
- Emerging payment methods
Traditional payment methods – mail, autopay, website and phone payments – are ubiquitous. However, mobile app and kiosk payments are emerging. In fact, 42 percent of utilities are testing, trialing, piloting or considering offering a mobile app with billing functionality, and 32 percent are considering supporting kiosk payments over the next two years. “We anticipate seeing these two payment options grow based on current pilots, as well as customer interest and satisfaction,” shared Noah Solomon, Senior Research Analyst at Chartwell.
- Not all payment methods are created equal
There has been a significant increase in credit card payments, especially when compared to other payment options, like checks. “The increase in credit card usage isn’t because utilities are encouraging customers to use them; it’s primarily because credit card companies are offering better benefits, points and incentives,” Noah explained.
- Three is a magic number
The average number of colors that utilities use on their bills is three. Noah stated, “The use of three colors allows utilities to highlight information without overwhelming and confusing customers with too many colors.”
- Online payments are gaining ground
While traditional mail still remains the top payment channel, digital methods are catching up. The percentage of customers posting payments through utility websites and mobile apps rose in 2017, while fewer customers made payments through the mail. This is a trend to watch.
- Going digital pays off
e-Bill enrollment is currently at approximately 28 percent for the utility industry with incremental increases occurring each year. When paper bill customers convert to e-bills, the savings equates to about 47 cents. That may not sound like much, but for every 100,000 customers that go paperless, a utility can expect to save about $564,000 a year.
- Auto-enrollment apathy
To Chartwell’s surprise, 74 percent of surveyed customers responded that they are either okay or indifferent to e-bill auto-enrollment. “It may be worth moving customers to e-bills automatically, especially if roughly only a quarter of customers are opposed to losing paper,” Noah said. “There may be some areas where regulatory issues might create a problem with auto-enrolling customers, but, generally, that's not the case.”
- Dangle those carrots
For the quarter of customers that prefer not to be auto-enrolled in e-bills, utilities may want to incentivize customers to go digital. “Many utilities are having success with convincing their customers to go paperless with the use of bill credits, sweepstakes, contests and rebates on appliances.”
These trends are shaping the way for utilities to delight their customers, save costs, accelerate payments and improve the “ease of doing business.” Which of these trends is your company embracing in 2018?