Set It and Forget It… Don’t Make Your Customers Work to Pay You!

by Tom Jackson, Director of MyUsage Payments

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to pay a bill.

  • First, you have to remember that the bill is due.
  • Next, you must see that you have the money to cover the payment.
  • Then you have to spend time logging in to an online payment portal. You may even have to write a check and go to the nearest mailbox to send it out.
  • Finally, you need to wait to receive confirmation that payment has been received.

However, what if you could put your payments on autopilot?

Using auto pay for your bills means that you can sit back and relax. You will be safe in the knowledge that your bills have been paid and there is nothing more you need to do.

In this article, we’ll look at the advantages of setting up auto payments for your utility company. We’ll also look at how to set up alerts to ensure that your customers are in complete control of their gas, water, and electricity bills.

Auto payments (also known as auto-debits or direct debits) are when you and your customer arrange to set up a scheduled payment. The money comes out of your customer’s bank account or credit card account and is sent to you at a pre-arranged date and time.

With MyUsage, the customer can set up Auto-pay with your assistance or they can handle this very easily and securely on their own in a few steps.

  • It saves time as customers don’t manually have to pay bills each month
  • They don’t have to remember when bills are due
  • They will receive notification of an upcoming payment and a receipt after payment
  • They avoid late and missed payment fees
  • It can ensure a healthy credit score. Paying bills on time and in full counts towards 35% of a customer’s FICO score
  • They can manage their own budget more efficiently

As you can see, auto payments can have massive advantages for both your customers and your organization.

However, just because your customers are signed up to auto-pay doesn’t mean that you can stop all contact and leave them to their own devices.

You still need to communicate with your customers and keep them up to date with what is happening with their accounts.

Three out of four people have stopped dealing with a company and switched to a competitor because they have felt the company was disorganized in their communication.

One great way to keep in touch with your customers is through customized alerts. These alerts will keep your customers informed as to the state of their account and how much money they owe.

You can send these alerts by email, SMS, or by push notification if you have a mobile app, such as MyUsage, that your customers can install.

Given that over half of bills are paid using mobile devices in the US, push notifications may be a fantastic option for your utility company.

Here are four ways we recommend that you can use alerts to your advantage:

1. When a payment is coming up

You can send a message to your customer a few days before payment is due.

This means that they can check to make sure they have enough money in their account to cover the payment. If they don’t have enough, your customer can then make arrangements to cover the shortfall or get in touch with you to arrange an alternative payment plan.

2. What their payment is likely to be

Your customer’s payments are likely to vary month-to-month, depending on how much energy they have used and the weather conditions. For example, your customers are more likely to use additional electricity and gas in the cold winter months or when they have guests visiting and staying over.

You can send your customer an estimate of how much their upcoming payment will be. That way, they can see if it will be more or less than they were expecting.

89% of customers consider consistency to be an essential factor when it comes to auto payments, so you want to ensure there are no nasty surprises.

3. When their payment has been received (or has failed)

Sometimes payments don’t reach you as expected. Your customer may not have enough funds in their account, their bank details may have changed or there may have been an issue with the auto-pay system. In fact, 7% of all payments fail.

Sending your customer a confirmation when the payment has reached your account will give them peace of mind. It will reassure them that there is no more that needs to be done at their end.

Similarly, sending an alert if a payment has been unsuccessful will mean they can resolve the issue and rearrange payment.

4. When their usage is higher than normal

Sometimes the amount of energy your customer uses may be higher than usual. For example, if your customer was working at home during lockdown, they could have been using up to 30% more energy than they would have if they commuted to the office.

Sending an alert if energy usage creeps up above an agreed amount will ensure that your customer has the funds to cover the increase. It will also give them a heads up so they can look into reasons why their energy bill was higher that month.

Like snowflakes and fingerprints, no two customers are the same. This means that you need to give them the flexibility to adjust their preferences.

36% of businesses do not collect customer preference data. If you don’t give customers the option to change and customize their alerts, you run the risk of frustrating them.

Put settings in place to enable your customers to change the following:

  • How they receive alerts, whether by text, email, or push notification
  • Which mobile number or email address the notifications need to go to (it may be the case that the person who receives the bill is not the one who pays it)
  • Which notifications your customer receives. It may be that they want a message when their bill is due, but they are not interested in receiving confirmation of payment
  • How far in advance they receive notifications. Some customers may want them as far ahead as possible so they can check that they have the money in their account. However, others may want their notifications nearer the time so they don’t forget about them
  • How high their usage needs to be over the average in order to result in a notification.

These options should be as easy to change as possible. Ideally, your customer will be able to change them by clicking on a link in an email or the settings in your smartphone app.

Last year, 15% of bill payers admitted to skipping or partially paying their utility bill.

If you want to encourage more customers to pay their bills on time and in full, promoting auto-pay options could be good for your business.

However, you need to have the technical infrastructure in place to ensure that customers feel confident and comfortable paying their bills automatically as some customers are still reluctant to use auto-pay as they are worried that they will lose control over their bank account. This is where providing proactive alerts helps your customers feel in control of the auto-pay process.

Make utility payments seamless and automatic for your customers with MyUsage!

MyUsage is an app that your customers can download to their smartphones. It lets them track their daily energy usage, set up personalized payment reminders, and pay their bills in the most convenient way for them.

Simple, speedy, and seamless… MyUsage will revolutionize the way your customers pay their energy bills!

Available on IOS and Android — visit the MyUsage website today.

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Sources:

North America’s leading utility prepay and payment service company.

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