Why Should Municipalities Offer Flexible Payment Options?

published June 16, 2016

Citizens have no shortage of options in the modern age and, let’s face it, choices drive behavior. For many municipalities, payments tend to be an afterthought or even overlooked entirely, and for good reason— officials are more focused on delivering value through their community offerings than through the financial transaction itself. Nevertheless, payments play an integral role in overall citizen experience, and taking steps to enhance it can ultimately improve your bottom line.

Get Paid Faster

Municipalities in particular understand the pivotal role of good cash flow. Without a proper flow of funds, productivity suffers and expansion is difficult. Traditional payment methods like checks can take a relatively long time to process, so municipalities that still collect a majority of their revenue through arguably outdated methods may unknowingly be putting themselves at a disadvantage. Payment methods such as credit card, debit card, and ACH are typically processed faster than checks and require less work on the customer’s part than an in-person payment. Offering such options is a simple route to accelerate payments made.

Slow payment processing isn’t the only problem plaguing cash flow within some organizations. Rough economic times have left many citizens in a financial bind. When not offered flexible payment options, some citizens may stall on payments or miss them completely, increasing the risk of accumulating bad debt. A platform that gives citizens the freedom to choose their own payment method allows them to manage their own finances better, which could lead to quicker payments for your organization.

The Future is Digital

With citizens spending so much of their time online, municipalities are aiming to take as much activity to the web as possible, and payments are no exception. Citizens also seek convenience, which make features like electronic invoicing and online bill payment differentiating factors that could lead citizens to one business over another.

Sending paper statements and receiving payments in the mail is a lengthy process that costs municipalities both time and money. Traditional bill presentment and payment processes also leave a lot up to the citizen—she or he must take the initiative to sort through mail, open your bill, and go through the motions of writing out a check and mailing it back to you.

Sending statements electronically and accepting payments via web and other channels increases the chances that your bills are seen. It makes it easy for your citizen to take action immediately and pay you sooner rather than later.

Citizen Experience is the Goal

According to a J.D. Power study on customer satisfaction in the utility industry, satisfaction increases when citizens are offered multiple paperless billing and payment methods— particularly web and mobile options. The case study indicated customer satisfaction is highest among citizens who use their utility’s online website to check their account statements and pay a bill.

Considered an almost exclusively digital cohort, millennial citizens prefer online and mobile payment methods more than any other generation. Nielsen reports 55% of mobile payments are already made by smartphone users ages 18 to 34, and according to JWT, 62% of millennials are comfortable with the idea of connecting their payment information to municipalities in order to speed payment. Millennials already represent the largest segment of the American workforce, making them an increasingly important demographic to take into consideration. Any municipality looking long-term will have to adapt to the preferences of the generation that is larger and more diverse than the Baby Boomers.

Flexible payment methods and channels offer a variety of benefits to Municipalities looking to modernize their services, while offering value and convenience to their citizens. The right payments platform can help transform outdated and costly administrative processes while enhancing the citizen experience.

Is a robust electronic payment solution right for your municipality?

Learn more here.

Posted by Woody Estep