Is it time to upgrade your bill payment technology? Use this checklist to decide

Receiving bill payments used to be a pretty straightforward task. But rapid advancements in fintech and consumer payment trends have left many billers behind.

Consumers have multiple payment tenders (credit card, debit, ACH transfer or cash) and they are choosing to make those payments from a variety of payment channels: online, phone, mail, mobile, Apple Pay, Google Pay or Amazon Pay, to name a few.

Moreover, use of electronic bill payment is growing exponentially, thanks to both advancements in technology and changes to consumer behaviour prompted by the pandemic.

These changes have led many companies to upgrade to specialised bill payment platforms to manage their customers’ transactions. Yet not all technology is created equal, especially when it comes to flexibility, efficiency, customer service and ease of use. Many billers settle for legacy platforms that don’t meet modern needs and end up dissatisfied when the technology solution wastes time, money, and erodes customer trust.

How do you know when it’s time to make a switch? Review the following checklist; if your current solution falls short, it’s likely time to reassess.

Bill payment provider checklist:

Here are six “must have” requirements for modern bill payment technology:

1. Large menu of payment methods (including cash)

Consumers have never had so many options for bill payment. And guess what? They have come to expect a wide range of choices. Your customers want to pay their bills whenever and however they find convenient, so your bill payment platform must continually expand to include popular payment tenders and channels to keep up with your customers’ evolving expectations.

For example, we are now seeing the emergence of mobile pay and digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, which are used by an estimated 427 million consumers worldwide. To succeed into the future, businesses must accept any type of payment tender via any channel consumers use. Think ahead by ensuring your bill payment provider can adapt its product in pace with evolving market trends.

Of course, cash remains preferred and necessary for many Americans – notably the 24 percent of U.S. households (approximately 7.1 million households) who are unbanked or underbanked, according to the FDIC – so a modern bill payment platform should include a digital cash option. One way a technology company can accomplish that is by forging partnerships with retail establishments that contract to receive and transmit the payments. The cashier simply scans a barcode on the customer’s phone, the customer pays the bill amount to the cashier, and the money is transferred to you digitally to complete the payment. Creative technology innovations like this demonstrates your bill payment technology provider is keeping all your customers in mind, which translates to huge collection wins for your company.

2. Seamless updates and maintenance

Technology companies constantly innovate and improve their products, delivering those updates to customers electronically. Yet even the best updates can become liabilities if they interrupt your operations and frustrate customers. Remember, the goal is to accommodate customers however and whenever they want to pay their bill, and for some customers that means in the middle of the night and on weekends.

Industry analysts have estimated that network downtime can cost companies an average of $5,600 a minute. That’s a rough estimate, of course, but it illustrates the serious nature of the issue. Modern bill payment platforms use cloud-based software that updates automatically with minimal to no interruptions to your service. That way, you can meet customer expectations of 24/7 service.

3. Integration and customisation with your current systems

It’s possible to get by with a piecemeal bill pay solution, but why would you do that when a fully integrated, customisable product is available? The ideal bill payment technology provider will help you do more with less third-party tools, helping you eliminate extra costs and allowing your employees to get more done in a single platform.

You should also expect the technology platform to incorporate robust APIs that allow you to pick and choose how you connect, which features you use, and how the customer experience is implemented.

Bill payment technology platforms also should offer additional personalisation and configuration options, ranging from incorporating your brand colours, logos and language to the interface, to helping you create business rules and custom fields that automate common bill payment tasks. These adaptations should be low or no additional cost and available quickly, not months down the line.

The best technology platforms will have a menu of common options available to turn off or on as needed, with no extensive coding required.

4. Risk management and compliance expertise

Bill payment is a highly regulated industry, so make sure your technology provider understands the laws and can help your company maintain compliance. The technology provider should be compliant with PCI-DSS, NACHA and other relevant rules and regulations, conduct regular in-house training on regulatory issues, and be available to advise your staff on compliance issues related to their platform. For instance, the bill payment platform may offer secure tools to help agents who are working remotely collect payments without taking card numbers over the phone, which reduces your compliance scope.

Expect your bill payment technology provider to further understand your risks and take steps to help you reduce costly occurrences like chargebacks and fraud. For instance, the vendor should have built-in tools to identify suspicious activity or fraudulent behaviour, and expert support staff familiar with both risk management and compliance concerns.

5. Customer engagement tools

Staying in touch with your customers through regular, targeted communications pays off in numerous ways, from boosting on-time payments to promoting special programs and building your brand.

Expect your payments technology to accommodate setting up automated messaging around the bill payment process. For instance, the technology should enable you to schedule payment reminders at designated times before, on and after the payment date. These messages can be customised for different payer segments, so those with a history of late payments get more reminders, or more urgently worded reminders. The messages can be further segmented based on preferred communications method (text, email or push notification) and preferred language.

A modern technology platform can further influence payment response by incorporating smart links into the reminder messages. The customer then only needs to click on the link to go directly to the payment page, no password or account numbers required. Within minutes, the customer can pay his or her bill, quickly and smoothly.

Customer engagement may have one of the largest ROIs when you consider how expensive it can be to manually collect delinquent payments. That’s especially true if your bill payment technology automates engagement messages, so make sure the platform you choose is up to the task.

6. Commitment to customer service

The quality and accessibility of customer support can make all the difference in your decision to keep your existing solution or upgrade to a more modern bill payment platform.

Expect excellent service to start with the implementation process. Ask what resources the technology platform provider will provide and what will be expected on your end in terms of staffing and implementation work. That may help drive your decision, and also help you plan and allocate resources appropriately.

After implementation, what support will the technology provider offer moving forward? Will you have a dedicated account manager to answer questions or address concerns, or will you be stuck in a general cue waiting for someone to respond? Obviously, the more personal attention, the better, and it may sway you toward a vendor who treats you like a VIP when you have a question or concern.

Finally, what support is available for your customers while making a payment? A service-minded technology partner will provide a phone number to call if issues arise, as well as educational resources to help them learn the process. The technology provider may also offer the expertise of their marketing team to accomplish goals like increasing remote pay and auto pay adoption.

When you identify a bill payment technology provider that is on your team and invested in your long-term success, you can make the switch with confidence.

Is it time for a change?

Though this checklist is not all-inclusive, it provides a good start in determining if you’re being well served by your current bill payment technology. Considering that paying a bill may be the most frequent (or only) interaction your customers have with your company, it must be smooth, fast and frictionless time after time. That’s why it’s advisable to have high expectations of your bill pay platform, and not settle for good-enough.

If you decide to shop around, evaluate multiple technology platforms while keeping this list of expectations at hand. And allow yourself plenty of time to phase out of your current contract while onboarding a new system. That’s a tricky process that shouldn’t be rushed.

The current environment has opened opportunities for companies to revaluate and retool many ways of doing business, including bill payment. Why not take this opportunity to take a hard look at your current processes and technology partners? With the right bill pay platform, you’ll have confidence and support to tackle the better (and busier) days ahead.

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