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Make Bill Payment a Positive Customer Experience

Bill payment and debt collections haven’t changed much over the past 20 years. While there are a few more options, the strategy has remained the same: notify the customer, send the bill, offer online/in-store bill payment, and if payments aren’t made on time, send the customer to collections. But that process – as good as it is for the financials – doesn’t have a heavy focus on the customer experience. And, that’s a missed opportunity.
Thus, it’s in telecom companies’ best interest to look at how bill/debt payment can be transformed into a positive touchpoint, especially in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. Here are a few ways carriers can help their subscribers like – or better tolerate – handing over their cash/credit card for telecom services.

1) Add New Payments Channels

Making it more convenient for subscribers to pay their telecom bills seems like a no-brainer. But it’s not so easy – it requires collecting payments securely and then applying it to the right customers’ accounts. And what happens when there is incomplete customer information? Using payments management software, carriers can navigate these hurdles and quickly transform existing retail stores, gas stations, etc. into secure payments collection channels for post-paid plans. Subscribers just pay their bill (with cash, credit or any medium specified) and a confirmation is sent to the payments software. The payments software then applies the amount to the subscribers’ billing account(s) and even reconciles it with accounting systems.
  • The financial benefits: prevent past due balances and even non-pay churn. Improve revenue flow and automate controls.
  • The customer experience benefit: added convenience can boost subscribers’ loyalty.

2) Implement a Debtors’ Self-Pay Portal

Much like online bill pay, debtors can pay off their telecom debt using an online self-pay portal that works on desktop and mobile. Debtors can login at any time, select payment plans and even receive discounts.  If they don’t honor their commitments, their service is automatically suspended. To protect the carrier’s margins, the portal can use business rules to extend more lenient payment terms to credit-worthy subscribers

            View and pay your past-due telecom invoices online.

  • The financial benefits: analytics show that carriers can realize a 50% increase in the number of subscribers that honor their payment commitments using a self-pay portal vs a call with a collections agent. That translates into less bad debt.
  • The customer experience benefit: debtors can pay their bills privately, without intrusion. This can increase Net Promoter Scores and even loyalty.

3) Send Bill Notifications at Reasonable Hours, Really!

Not a lot of people want to be notified at 4 am that their bill is due. Yet, that’s when the text message is sent, or at least delivered, according to customer complaints posted on carriers’ Facebook pages. One way to avoid that is with a good campaign management software that can schedule notifications across time zones and also incorporate customer preferences. 
  • The financial benefits: keep bills top of mind, when the customer is ready to receive the message
  • The customer experience benefit: no poorly timed messages

4) Divide Auto-Pay Payments, Based on Customer Preferences

Offering subscribers the opportunity to select their auto-pay date as well as divide the payment a few times over the month, provides another level of convenience.
  • The financial benefits: increases on-time payments.
  • The customer experience benefit: gives customers flexibility.

5) Create Personalized, Risk-Adjusted Plans for Bad Debt Customers

Pushing off bad-credit customers into prepaid plans may contain the risk but it may not build a lot of excitement for the brand.  Carriers can fix that by 1) making their credit policies more predictive by evaluating fit as well as payments behavior (using finely tuned credit analysis software) 2) building plans that reward consistent bill payment (using product catalog/offer management software) With well-honed eligibility criteria, carriers can offer personalized plans to prospects that would be otherwise declined because of risk. These plans can include variable deposits, mix and match features (all with minimal risk) and dynamic credit limits. Once a customer has proven himself by paying sequential bill payments, he can be eligible for more services. This can incent him to continue paying bills because the plan beats anything he can get in pre-paid.
  • The financial benefits: get more customers on a post-paid plan and encourage them to continue paying their bills. Moreover, the risk is rightsized for the custome.
  • The customer experience benefit: fewer customers are assigned to prepaid or denied service. They can also grow into more benefits and become longer term customers.

It’s a Multi-Department Effort

Telecom companies have placed an exceptionally high priority on boosting the customer experience. Among other things, they have stepped up the purchase experience, deployed multichannel customer care; leveraged big data to identify new features and services, and rolled out loyalty apps. Yet, many look at bill payment as the sole responsibility of the finance department.  It’s not. It’s a critical customer touchpoint. Carriers need to treat it as such, and integrate it into the entire customer journey. As JP Morgan points out: