Meeting Utility Customers’ Payment Expectations

By Rob Houser, Senior Vice President, Product Management and Strategy, Biller Solutions, Fiserv –

COVID-19 continues to hit the economy hard, leaving many people without the means to pay recurring bills. That has led organizations across all industries to re-evaluate their business models to maintain critical cash flow.

Utilities have continued developing strategies in the midst of the pandemic to make it easier for customers to pay bills. That has included elevating digital models, waiving payment fees, enabling credit card payments and building new digital payment portals.

Those changes reflect how consumers’ preferences and behavior have evolved during the pandemic, according to recent Fiserv Expectations & Experiences: Consumer Finances During COVID-19 study.  Research results show 26 percent of consumers said they changed payment methods as a result of the pandemic, and 21 percent said they switched to a completely paperless  billing experience.

Consumers also want more options for engaging with their billers. The research showed 58 percent of consumers say it’s important to view their bills in multiple places, whether through their bank, their biller’s website or the mobile wallet on their phone.

A key to adjusting to the pandemic for utilities, is continuing to advance their digital billing and payments strategies to keep pace with consumers’ changing needs and preferences. It’s a strategy that provides speed and satisfaction for customers and savings for utilities.

Meeting Customers Wherever They Are

Digital isn’t the only strategy for utilities looking to meet consumer expectations. Some customers still prefer paying with cash, and utilities that provide a third-party walk-in network for in-person payments can protect their revenue streams, show they understand their customers’ preferences, and offer extended hours and significantly more locations.     

In responding to any crisis, speed is a necessity in the short term, but it’s important to make sure the solutions that utilities establish now make sense in the long term. While few could have foreseen the sweeping effect of the pandemic on all of our personal and professional lives, now is the right time for utilities to review their bill-payment channels to maximize customer engagement and satisfaction.

Consumers expect to view and pay their bills when, where and how they want. With a digital future in mind, utilities can look at their full scope of payment options and make the necessary adjustments where needed.

The bottom line: The more payment channels utilities offer their customers; the more opportunities people will have to make timely payments in ways that are easy and comfortable for them. It’s a strategy that can keep cash flowing and operations funded through the current crisis and whatever comes next.