Driving Paperless needs a Plan

published August 4, 2016

There are a number of benefits for both the municipality and your citizens that can be achieved by breaking away from traditional paper statements. Going paperless helps the municipality reduce costs, reprioritize workloads, improve cash flow by accelerating payments and reduces the impact on the environment. How can paperless billing accelerate payments from citizens? When paper statements are mailed, much is left up to the citizen. Weeks could go by before the statement is even opened thus leaving a lengthy period of time between the request for payment and the actual receipt of funds. Because paperless billing is instant, a paperless bill is likely to be viewed sooner and acted on more quickly. For citizens, paperless billing offers needed convenience and added layers of security, leading to an overall improvement in experience and satisfaction. Studies show that by developing a paperless billing marketing strategy, and then following through, municipalities are ten times more likely to reach higher adoption rates than those who do not.

Tip 1: Make Enrollment Easy

It should be very easy for citizens to find out where to enroll on your site and the process should be painless. Don’t make it an obstacle. First, make enrollment available through multiple channels, including online. Have your customer service reps offer to enroll citizens while on the phone. If you have a location that citizens visit in person, enable enrollment in those locations as well. Second, keep the information needed for enrollment to the absolute minimum. Finally, provide them with an online self-service option that they can access when they are ready.

Tip 2: Timing is Everything

The best chance to get a citizen to sign up for paperless billing is at the beginning of the relationship. According to Fiserv’s 6th Annual Billing Household Survey, 45 percent of consumers said they prefer to enroll for paperless billing when first opening a new account. It is crucial to make sure the “opt-in” enrollment process is quick and easy while your citizen is engaged in setting up a new service. Or, why not take it one step further and establish paperless billing as the default option and paper bills as the “opt-in” option for new customers?

Tip 3: Don’t Forget to Utilize Your Front Line to Help Drive Paperless Adoption

Go low-tech. Person-to-person promotion has been shown to be extremely effective with more-reluctant clients. This makes sense since people with reservations about technology respond best to people who recommend technology than to technology that recommends itself. Include your Customer Service Representatives in your plan to drive e-bill adoption. Start by determining what motivates your employees. Consider incentivizing your employees with an in-office party, a catered lunch, or the chance to win a prize for achieving paperless adoption rate goals. Communicate to your front line employees that you need their help educating citizens on the benefits of e-bills to drive adoption. Set the enrollment goal and reward the staff if the goal is reached.

Tip 4: Routinely Gather Email Addresses

Make sure that email addresses are routinely gathered during all phone and online interactions with citizens. The more email addresses you have up front, the easier it will be to send messages and implement your new paperless billing strategies.

Tip 5: Utilize all Your Marketing Channels

Whether your message focuses on the environment, convenience, or both, create a multi-channel marketing strategy to drive awareness at all possible citizen interaction points. This approach will penetrate a wider base of your citizen demographics while creating a persistent top-of-mind awareness of the paperless billing options.

  • Print targeted messages on current paper billing statements.

  • Consistently promote with colorful eye-catching insert campaigns.

  • Display paperless messaging prominently on your website.

  • Tap the power of social media by incorporating messaging into your social media channels.

  • Incorporate a paperless billing message into your customer service “on-hold” phone recording.

  • Have your customer service representatives promote paperless billing over the phone and in person.

  • Publish an article and promotional messaging in your citizen facing newsletter.

  • Offer sweepstakes incentives to enroll in paperless billing to win prizes such as a tablet or smart phone.

  • Consider providing a small discount for paperless enrollment, either one-time or monthly.

Tip 6: Consider Offering Additional Paperless Channels

New technologies have changed the way citizens choose to view and pay bills. Having multiple options such as texts and voice notifications in addition to emails appeals to a wider demographic spectrum of your citizen base. According to the Fiserv’s 6th Annual Billing Household Survey, two-thirds of consumers want bill payment alerts and 71 percent would switch to paperless billing if they also receive reminders. Mobile functionality has the ability to increase e-bill adoption by facilitating anytime, anywhere. Bill due date reminders neutralizes one of the top barrier to adoption, the concern about forgetting to pay or paying late due to a lack of a paper bill to serve as a reminder.

Tip 7: Provide a Complete Paperless Billing and Payment Solution

Paperless billing and electronic payments go hand in hand. Having the right customer experience is crucial for retention and utilization of electronic payments. In today’s digital age, citizens expect to be able to make payments anytime and anywhere. Citizens favor self-service bill payment options that provide them the flexibility to use their preferred payment method, setup and manage payments, access statements, and view payment history. Consider options like these:

  • Self-service portal for citizens to activate paperless billing.

  • Offering multiple paperless channels such as email, text & voice notifications.

  • Present an exact image of the paper statement, to ensure a smooth transition to your electronic version.

  • Provide the ability to easily retrieve, view and print past billing statements.

  • Empower citizens with their choice of payment channel (web, mobile, text, automated phone line, in-person).

  • Provide as many types of payment as possible like checks, credit cards, and debit cards for every channel.

  • Allow options for one-time, scheduled or automatically recurring payments for your citizens to choose from.

  • Deliver a consistent payment experience across all payment channels

Tip 8: Be Patient

Once you have your paperless billing strategy developed and in motion, be patient. Change takes time. Keep in mind, change is rarely instant, so be committed to a long-term strategy.

By 2018, analysts expect that 37% of billing statements will be paperless. Having a long-term paperless billing marketing strategy can increase your activations by tenfold. Consistently presenting the right paperless billing solution, at the right times, in the right ways, will yield you the adoption results for which you are aiming!

Forrest “Woody” Estep, General Manager for municodePAY, a fully integrated division of Municode, offering industry leading, end-to-end municipal billing and electronic payment solutions exclusively for the local government market. municodePAY's solutions include electronic payment options (web, mobile, IVR), paperless billing (email, text and voice), traditional statement printing/mailing and call center solutions. Our utility billing processes create flexible, efficient and customer-centric solutions that allow municipalities to better leverage existing billing resources.