To be frank, paying a bill is never going to be exciting for a customer. What it can and should be is convenient, simple, and seamless. Customers receive 4.1 pieces of transactional mail per week. The payment structure needs to fit within their framework, to feel like it’s tailored to them specifically. It seems like paying electronically would be the obvious choice. We are in an ever-expanding digital landscape where so much of our lives are tied to online interactions and transactions.
But these are bills and habits are tough to break. This brings us to the essential—and perennial—question: How do you get someone perfectly satisfied with their service to switch from paper bills to e-billing? You incentivize, and those incentives must be good. Here are three.
- Offer a discount.
Offer e-billing as part of a discounted service plan. It’s concrete and uncomplicated. It requires no effort on their part, but the difference will be noticeable.
- Enter them into a sweepstakes.
Nothing like a prize to sweeten the pot. Try a major gift card or the latest gadget (we are pushing e-bills, after all).
- Tie in a charitable cause.
Present customers with the opportunity to give back in some way. This could be something as straightforward as a tree planted for every customer who signs up for paperless billing.
Remember that once the customer switches, the service must be on point. Ultimately, the best incentive is having the best solution.
Outsourcing your transactional communications can have a powerful effect on your business and its bottom line, whether you opt for an EBPP solution or traditional print and mail. Here are three specific reasons to do it.
- Free up your employees’ time.
Billing can be a complex process. Using a single-source provider for all your billing and communication needs eliminates the internal day-to-day tasks that bog down employees. They can use their productivity and passion in different ways while we streamline this process.
- Benefit from the latest technologies and operational experience.
Digital, print and mail, mobile: Offering those channels isn’t enough; they must be optimized. At OSG, we use programs like MailTrek to monitor inbound and outbound mail, which improves the efficiency of your collection efforts (and ultimately saves you money). We offer dynamic messaging, which turns invoices into marketing tools and engages customers month to month.
Our solutions are also practical. With production facilities across the country, our distributive print process guarantees a quick turnaround time.
- Move into the future with us.
As technology continues to evolve, customers are going to expect an omni-channel experience—an unbroken stream of access to their information. Through new acquisitions, more robust printing processes, and additional digital solutions (i.e. OSG Letter Composer), we’ve positioned ourselves to move with customers as they engage with the world. Because this is ultimately about more than billing—it’s about communication.
It’s almost a new year. Let’s talk strategy.
If your company’s goal is to move customers from paper bills to electronic, we understand why. Electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP) is cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and customer-centric. But now you have to convince them of that.
Because of the perpetual digital revolution we live in, it seems like customer migration to a digital platform would be simple. What many customers really want, though, is the option to move freely between channels without any disruption of their experience. And some don’t want to give up print mail at all.
Our OSG eAdoption program guides you through the electronic adoption process. When you’re pushing electronic billing, it’s important to focus on working smartly and in stages. Not everyone is going to bite right away. Conduct surveys, communicate frequently, and spread your paperless messages through multiple channels—eblasts, postcards, inserts, and invoice and envelope messaging. Here are some of our other recommendations.
- Run marketing campaigns—multiple campaigns.
Marketing is a crucial element here. If Marjorie Duncan has been receiving a paper bill from you for 30 years, she’ll likely need more than a one-time suggestion to go paperless. Introduce, explain, and then start again from a different angle.
Simply put, the best way to get someone to do something is to give them a great reason to do it. Consider offering electronic billing as part of a discounted service plan. Tell customers you’ll donate to an environmental cause. Be creative.
- Manage the customer experience.
Once the customer migration begins, make it worth it to them! Your EBPP system should be easy to navigate. Customers should feel a sense of control, whether through notifications of invoice availability or through SMS text-to-pay options.
In the end, it’s crucial to be consistent with education, awareness, and incentives. We can help create an adoption plan that works.
We should each have a flying car by now, right? If we were in the future people predicted years ago, we’d be zipping through the clouds to work. That idea is still alive and well, but as it turns out, the cars got into a different cloud first. They’re in our phones, roaming around inside of apps on their way to pick us up. Technology isn’t linear; it stretches and morphs on its way to the future. The same principle applies to billing technology.
The cry is always the same: “Paper is obsolete! Right?” The truth is, we’re not quite there yet. Electronic billing has been around since the ’90s, and for every paperless friend who scoffs at the idea that anyone would still receive an archaic hard copy, there are plenty more who still enjoy receiving paper bills in 2017, even if they ultimately pay online. (In fact, 21 million people change the way they pay their bills from one month to the next.*) What’s clear is that when it comes to transactional documents, there are many who want a mix of the past and the future, the paper and the cloud.
So, what’s next? When we developed the OSG Mobile App, we wanted to offer clients a tool that enhanced their billing and payment processes. Beyond the right-in-your-pocket ease it provides customers—many of whom use apps for a litany of other services anyway—the app also allows for interaction. It’s about functionality as much as it’s about convenience. Their customers don’t have to stare at static PDFs; there are functions that actually engage them. It also offers the client customization options that sets the company brand apart.
Most importantly, it leaves room for change. The app grows with the client, and with their customers. There’s no way to predict the future specifically, but leaving room for that growth is essential.
*Source: Eight Annual Billing Household Survey, Fiserv Inc., 2016
In business, the idea of a failing customer communications program can be frightening. In today’s fast-paced world, you only have a moment to get your customer’s attention and multiple mailings can be costly and end up turning customers off.
Research shows that regular and consistent customer communication programs help build loyalty and trust. But in a world of seemingly infinite information, how can you create an effective program using integrated communications that engages customers along several key touchpoints? Here are few options to ensure your program is comprehensive enough to meet your customer communication goals:
- Dynamic Full Color Messaging. Enhancing invoices with targeted, customized messaging can transform them into powerful marketing and communications tools during every billing cycle. Up-sell and cross-sell products and services using the valuable real estate already available on your monthly invoices.
- Envelope Messaging. Making a good first impression is one of the most important aspects of any communications campaign. Immediately engage and capture your customer’s attention with full color messages on the outer envelope that will highlight and reinforce the messaging inside.
- Electronic Messaging. Creating branded email blasts and newsletters will help you utilize the customer data you already have and turn them into a powerful marketing tool. Additionally, an online, dynamic electronic billing portal gives you the opportunity to engage your customers where they likely spend a majority of their time: online.
- Lifecycle Marketing. Implementing programs like welcome, win-back and new member programs, calendar inserts and other types of promotional programs are turn-key solutions that help you improve customer retention and take advantage of events throughout the year.
So, have no fear. Dynamic, integrated and creative customer communications programs are easier to implement than you think. Working with the an experienced provider, you can seamlessly integrate your billing processing into a communications program that helps capture attention, drive revenue, create customer loyalty and increase brand awareness.
Last month the Pantone Color Institute®, the global color authority and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, introduced 112 new Pantone colors for graphic design, bringing the number of Pantone colors to 1,867. Think of the possibilities this gives each of us involved in developing critical customer communications. The colors of the rainbow just expanded and offered us even more color options from which to choose.
Just like The Pantone Color Institute, as billers, we have long known the importance of color. Used strategically throughout an invoice or statement package, whether electronic or print, color has proven to help customers find critical information, encourage action and identify your brand.
Are you incorporating color into your critical customer communications and taking full advantage of the color opportunities in your invoice/statement package? From the mailing envelope to the invoice/statement itself to any additional message pages or inserts, you have the ability to use color to draw attention to important information. Take full advantage of the opportunity you get each month to directly communicate with your customers through your invoice or statement package. Use color for dynamic messaging, full color envelope messaging or colorful inserts to enhance your message.
According to Xerox Corporation, color increases readers’ attention span by 82 percent. It also improves reading comprehension by 73 percent. And a recent Pitney Bowes study found that 69 percent of the study participants were more likely to open an envelope with color or graphics on the front than those without.
Capitalize on the new colors available to you and watch the impact they’ll have on your critical customer communications.
According to Pew Research Center, 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone as compared to 35 percent just five years ago.1 Gallup reports that almost three-quarters of Americans check their mobile phones at least once an hour.2 And the Gartner Group predicts that annual global sales of mobile phones are expected to reach 2.1 billion in 2018.3
It’s crystal clear that we live in a digitally-connected world. Today’s customers demand convenience and expect access to the latest products and services. Customers want and expect to be able to read their emails, view their bills and statements and pay on their terms—when and how they want. For them, billing is anytime, anywhere. As billers, it is incumbent upon each of us to be sure we are keeping up with the times and engaging our customers while fostering brand loyalty and increasing revenue.
OSG has a long history of being at the forefront of billing trends and that’s why we have watched and matched the growing billing landscape with forward-thinking solutions. We are always meeting the needs of today while keeping an eye towards the trends of tomorrow. We have dedicated a lot of resources in order to not only add new tools, but to strengthen existing, proven solutions. Here is an overview of both new digital products as well as upgrades to current services.
OSG Mobile AppSM
Last year we introduced you to our OSG Mobile App and the response from our customers has been overwhelming. The OSG Mobile App, a turn-key mobile platform designed to give customers a better user experience, was designed to enhance the mobile billing and payment process. Our customers have seen the research and know that today smartphone users are spending more time using mobile apps (89%) and prefer apps to mobile websites (85%).4 That’s why the OSG Mobile App is the right solution at the right time.
Next-Tech Wireless, a rural wireless provider and an OSG customer, recognized the need to offer its customers a mobile pay app and has already seen the benefits. After launching the OSG Mobile App, Corrina Hudsonpillar, Marketing and Public Relations Supervisor at Nex-Tech Wireless, shared, “Our customers have become accustomed to having endless information at their fingertips. With the insatiable appetite for information comes the demand for more apps in the marketplace, thus more data capabilities.”
The newest digital offering is the addition of OSG eVoiceSM, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution that can take your customer payment experience to the next level. Through a series of phone key selections and voice prompts, the customer can receive their current amount due and pay their bills without having to wait for a customer service representative to become available. The system can be personalized to your company’s standards and daily reports can be provided for analysis purposes allowing you to discover your peak and non-peak hours and pinpoint areas that can be improved for a better customer experience. OSG eVoice can be a cost-effective tool for your business while still delivering quality customer service and convenience to your customers at the same time.
At OSG, we are always monitoring our products and services to ensure that we are providing our customers with the most up-to-date digital solutions. Recently the OSG electronic bill presentment and payment solutions received several important enhancements. One of the biggest is the ability to now add a new end-user to eBillSM and eInvoiceSM even before the first bill is processed by OSG. Now, an OSG customer who is using one of the OSG eBilling solutions can capture the momentum of signing up a new customer and get them enrolled in eBilling immediately. We’ve eliminated the wait and made the adoption seamless.
For those customers utilizing the OSG eInvoice model, your CSRs now have the ability to accept one-time payments (OTP) from your customers. OTP has been a valuable function, used by our eBill customers, since the inception of eBill. This is yet another way of providing you with options for your loyal customer base. We also added an Audit Trail report, so any payments accepted by CSRs can be historically tracked.
“Our digital product roadmap is focused on making billing and payments a much more convenient and intuitive experience, for both OSG customers and their bases,” said Steven Dubner, Senior Director of Products for OSG. “We want to continue to support our industries, so they can manage their core business, while OSG does the heavy lifting for invoicing, payments and customer communications. From a hybrid electronic billing model to consolidator financial institution solutions to mobile monetization opportunities, OSG plans on providing the tools that allow our customers to face the future.”
Sources: 1. Pew Research Center, U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015; 2. Gallup Survey, 2016; 3. Gartner Group, 2015; 4. Go-Globe June, 2015