Utilities striving to serve customers in a time of rapid payment channel evolution

By Allison Herdic, Industry Researcher —

Over the years, utility remittance has morphed from standard “check in the mail” transactions to a new list of offerings, including web and mobile channels and credit and debit card acceptance. As payment options continue to expand across industries and more consumers become accustomed to emerging channels, it stands to reason utilities will be faced with increased customer expectations for convenient payment options.

For example, the checkout process at many retail establishments now includes the option of transacting via Apple Pay. For a several years, customers have had the option to use PayPal when shopping online. And, in November 2017, Amazon announced its phased plans to incorporate Amazon Pay functionality into its Alexa device.

Chartwell is committed to monitoring these trends and remaining abreast of utility successes and customer preferences. Our recently published Payment – Trends and Opportunities – 2018 report (member login required) details the challenges facing utilities today, and takes a deeper look at a number of utility strategies and successes.

The analysis offers not only proprietary Chartwell industry research data collected from more than 50 North American utilities, but also some key findings from Chartwell’s 2017 Residential Consumer Survey of over 1,500 utility customers.

The new report details how a number of utilities across the industry are taking note of trends and continuing to refine their payment strategies to meet customers where they are.

In particular, Kansas City, Mo.-based KCP&L has achieved noteworthy electronic payment adoption, an accomplishment that can be connected to the utility’s intentionality. Electronic payments have been “continually treated as an opportunity for improvement,” eServices Manager Randy Vance shared with Chartwell.

Reynolds, Ga.-based Flint Energies has continued to increase the services it provides through its mobile app and mobile website, first introduced in 2011. Through a combination of planned marketing and organic growth, the cooperative has successfully attracted a growing number of members to the applications and a considerable portion of its member base to mobile-based payment posting, according to Vice President of Cooperative Communications Marian McLemore.

While these are only two examples of utilities that have made an ongoing commitment to meeting customers where they are, many others in the industry have also made great strides in increasing payment options – and the work continues.

Interested in exploring options for what’s on the agenda as well as what’s on the horizon for utilities regarding payments now and into the next decade? Visit Chartwell’s EnergyLibrary, available to Chartwell members. Interested in learning more about Chartwell research? Contact Tim Herrick to learn how to access Chartwell’s extensive collection of content-rich and customer-facing utility research.

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