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
The idea of a failing customer communications program can be frightening. Business today moves at an accelerated pace. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Lifecycle Marketing. Implementing programs like scratch-off, 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.
- 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.
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.
Today is October 21, 2015. And our past has finally caught up with our future. Of course we’re referring to the 30th anniversary of the 1985 blockbuster “Back to the Future.” Remember those neat gadgets featured in the sequel when they visited 2015? Laceless shoes? Flying cars? Hoverboards? TV phones? Today we do have some of those inventions but could Marty McFly have predicted that the monthly ritual of paying bills at your kitchen table using a paper check and envelope would be replaced with a real-time online digital experience that could be done anytime, anywhere by simply hitting a few buttons on a mobile phone (not to mention tablet or computer)?
Just how much has the billing landscape changed? Today 49 percent of all bills paid in the U.S. are electronic.1 And the 80 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-49 who own smartphones2 pay an average of two bills a month on that phone. And the way we present bills to consumers is also changing. A quarter3 of all U.S. bills are now sent electronically in place of a paper bill and a recent survey1 found that 46 percent of consumers said receiving paperless e-bills increases customer satisfaction.
So for today’s customer, billing is anytime, anywhere. Customers want and expect to be able to read their emails, view their bills and statements and pay their bills on their terms—when and how they want. Are you offering that? Mobile bill pay is clearly a must-have option for billers. This presents you with the opportunity to offer your customers electronic bills, invoices and statements. But first, have you taken a look at how many of your customers receive both a print bill and an electronic bill? Do you know how many are paying bills at their financial institution’s online payment site?
The billing landscape is continuing to evolve. As billers, it’s our job to keep up and anticipate ways to improve the presentment and payment process. You don’t need to be a time traveler to figure that out.
Sources: 1) Seventh Annual Fiserv Household Billing Survey from Fiserv; 2) http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/chapter-one-a-portrait-of-smartphone-ownership; 3) PaymentsSource.com, Paythink, March 2015
Fall officially begins this weekend, but the Pantone Color Institute®, the global color authority and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, has been thinking about fall for some time now. They issued their Fall 2015 Fashion Color Report earlier in the year and according to Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman, this season, “Juxtaposition of color from opposite sides of the spectrum emphasizes poise and confidence on the runway. The Fall 2015 palette is rooted in multi-faceted, androgynous colors that can be worn to portray effortless sophistication across men’s and women’s fashion; it is the first time we are seeing a truly unisex color palette.”
Each year and each season these experts in color take a fresh look at their color palettes. How often do you? 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.
So, are you incorporating color into your critical customer communications? Are you taking full advantage by using Full Color Dynamic Messaging or Full Color Envelope Messaging for the items that you mail? What about your eblasts and website? You have a rainbow of colors at your disposal; are you maximizing your color potential? Utilizing color throughout your customer communications and marketing collateral will go a long way to helping your stand out on the runway and make you and your materials memorable.
In the beginning there were black and white paper bills delivered through the mail. The bill informed the consumer or business how much money was owed, the consumer or business wrote a check and mailed it back to the service provider. And so it was. And it was good. But time passed, new technology was born, new channels arose and the consumer was no longer content with the old ways.
OSG is quite familiar with this story since we were there at the beginning and we’ve grown and evolved with the electronic billing industry. When we first opened our doors over 20 years ago, we produced paper bills with highlight color and mailed them in plain white envelopes. The bills were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service and most everyone paid by writing out a check and mailing it back using the enclosed business reply envelope. But those days are gone. The Federal Reserve figures that the volume of bills paid by checks peaked in 1995 at 49.5 billion and has been on a steady decline ever since.1
In recent years, the electronic billing industry has grown by leaps and bounds. InfoTrends predicts that 8.6 billion bills and statements delivered to consumers in the U.S. will be paperless in 2017.2 A bill is no longer simply a transactional document that informs how much money is owed but is also a transpromotional document through which companies can communicate with their customers on a monthly basis and deliver targeted messages.
The Customer Experience
We’ve watched the eBill industry evolve from simple to complex. While there are still those consumers who want to hold a paper bill in their hands, more customers want to engage with their service providers online and on mobile devices. And, as customers have grown accustomed to transacting online, they have developed clear expectations of the type of customer experience they would like to have. Today’s electronic billing customers receive their bills and invoices through multiple channels. The paper bill is now only the beginning. There must also be an electronic version of the bill that can be transmitted through email as well as be accessible from a biller website on a laptop and through apps via smartphones and tablets. And as more customers have put away the checkbook and stamps, we must offer payment options beyond the physical check. Consumers want to be able to not only view, but also pay their bills online. They want the flexibility of being able to pay with their smartphones, their tablets, their laptops and whatever tomorrow’s newest piece of technology may be.
And, viewing and paying their bills online through multiple channels is just the tip of the iceberg. Consumers are interested in a highly personalized and interactive experience. As customers grow savvier, they expect to be able to do more at their billing sites. Making sure that customers have the functionality and flexibility to see their account history, schedule future payments, receive text message and email reminders of upcoming payments due and pay with their credit cards are all naturally expected.
Be sure to come back next week to read about corporate adoption of electronic billing.
1 Federal Reserve Payment Studies; 2The Future of Multi-channel Transactional Communications in the U.S., InfoTrends, 2013; 3Top Issues: An Annual Report, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2013
Looking for a new way to help reinforce and strengthen the customer relationship? Think about this. As a society we’ve become so accustomed to having access to any type of information—our various account information included—at all hours of the day and night and in all different forms that it’s expected at this point.
So here’s the question. Are you offering self-service options for your customers to view and pay their bills and manage their accounts whenever and from wherever they want? Your customers like having control over their finances. By offering them self-service options you’ll reduce costs and improve efficiency and your customers will appreciate the ability to access their information day or night, the ability to view their current and past bills and the ability to pay or schedule a bill payment. By making their lives easier and facilitating the payment process you leave them feeling good about your company and your ability to anticipate and meet their needs.
Last week we discussed how bill payment options have changed. This week we take a look at some of those different options.
Electronic and On-Demand Options
Today, consumers young and old expect technology to be integrated into their everyday lives. This includes viewing and paying bills online. Think it’s only the Millennials and Gen Y consumers that are driving the move to electronic? Think again. Overall, consumer preferences have changed, even for older generations. We’ve gotten more comfortable transacting online—whether it’s to view statements, make purchases or pay bills—and we feel more secure about it. If consumers were once hesitant to enroll, many are now converting, as interacting online has become second nature to us. According to an ebilling Benchmarking Study sponsored by NACHA in 2011, 19.9 percent of wireless phone customers have adopted ebills and no longer even receive paper statements!
Cutting Through the Clutter
Information is coming to us at a record pace. But, the good news is that even in today’s competitive marketplace, transactional documents are opened and read 95% of the time, with the longest “read” time (42.5 seconds) when compared to direct mail (15.2 seconds) or television commercials (19 seconds), according to InfoTrends.
Offering cross-channel solutions in an increasingly “on-demand” environment means offering your customers the freedom and flexibility to decide which channel works for them today, while keeping an eye on options they may lean toward in the future. Although digital is an increasingly popular choice, you will always have some customers who will rely on paper. Whether it’s paper, email, mobile or web presentment, delivering cross-channel solutions across all touchpoints improves your member communications, heightens your visibility and enhances your image.