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When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the globe, it led to economic insecurity for many customers, some for the first time. With most utilities suspending late fees, credit card fees and disconnects for the better part of the year, arrears has mounted.
Many utilities implemented billing programs like payments arrangements, financial assistance for customers, budget billing, virtual energy audits, incentives and rebates, and prepay. Prepay is well suited to the crisis because it allows customers without credit to receive service and pay off outstanding debt on a set schedule, lessening the economic impact to utilities.
2) ebill Adoption
Driving eBill adoption is a permanent fixture in most utilities’ annual plans and strategies, offering significant gains in operational efficiencies and cost savings as well as the simplification and streamlining of the customer experience.
To achieve growth in eBill adoption, utilities have leveraged a wide variety of strategies. These strategies include auto-enrollment of customers in eBill trials, pop-up ads in online utility accounts, partnering with and donating to local charitable organizations, and “opt-out” eBill enrollment during start- or change-service transactions.
Utilities can realize strong savings through eBill adoption:
3) Removing/Reducing Credit Card Fees
It’s no secret— credit card fees are a major pain point for customers. Chartwell’s 2019 consumer data showed links between fee-free credit card payment options and customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and the perception of ease of doing business. Because of this, many utilities are looking into options to reduce or remove the fees altogether.
According to Chartwell’s recent audit, 23% of the largest 146 utilities in the US and Canada have removed credit card fees for residential customers.
In addition to overwhelming customer interest in fee-free card payments, those who currently pay their bill using a credit card without a fee felt 12% more loyal to their utility and 5% more satisfied.
4) New and Emerging Digital Payment Options (PayPal, Mobile Wallets, etc.)
Are emerging mobile payment options part of your 2021 strategy? Chartwell research shows customers are very interested in using free, digital payment methods such as PayPal and mobile wallet to pay their bills.
In fact, mobile/digital wallet is poised to be the fastest-growing payment method over the next two years, yet only 2% of utilities currently offer it. Chartwell’s research suggests that number could rise to 38% in just two years.
5) Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic process automation, or RPA, has emerged as a new method for utilities to achieve cost savings and operational efficiencies by enabling the automation of repetitive tasks that would otherwise be performed by a human worker.
RPA can achieve significant savings. Many utilities implementing RPA in their billing and/or customer service organizations have saved millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours each year. And according to Chartwell research, RPA will rapidly grow in adoption among utilities in the near future, ranking as RPA is the third-highest ranked major trend utilities will see in billing over the next five years.
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