Just as COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we live, billing organizations have also had to pivot their best practices in response to the health crisis. From making collections, to interacting with payers and more, biller best practices will likely never be the same as a result of the pandemic.
COVID-19 has encouraged (and in many cases, forced) payers to opt for contactless, digital methods of payment and communications. However, research shows that customer preferences have been trending towards contactless and digital payment methods, regardless of the pandemic. In a recent Invoice Cloud report, The State of Online Payments, 79% of payers said they prefer to make a payment through a digital channel whether online (43%), on a mobile device (34%), or via text messaging (2%). While many billing organizations expected these changes, COVID-19 has certainly accelerated this shift to digital-centric preferences.
So, what are the new best practices for billers? And why is it so critical for billing organizations to adhere to them? Based on the experience of over 2,100 Invoice Cloud clients, we’re outlining 3 new best practices billing organizations must consider to keep collections consistent, reduce late or delinquent payments, cut rising organizational costs, and more.
Best Practice #1: Make it easy for payers who have traditionally not used online payment methods to make the transition to digital payments
For some customers, 2020 marked their first-time paying bills online rather than in person or over the phone. While in some situations these digital payments were forced because of COVID-19, it’s still crucial for billing organizations to do everything in their power to make this transition from paper to digital a seamless one, especially for those who were hesitant before the pandemic.
For customers who are still on the fence about continuing on with digital payment methods, here are a few ways your organization can improve the transition for them:
- Mirror the details of your paper bill: Your organization’s online payment portal should mimic your paper bill with consistent branding and clearly identified due dates so customers can confidently pay their bill knowing they’re in the right place.
- Include notes in bill inserts: For customers who traditionally opt for manual payment methods, consider utilizing bill inserts or “envelope teasers” (where the information is placed on the outside of the envelope) to provide more information about your organization’s online payment options.
- Provide reminders: Providing your customers with relevant and timely reminders will ensure they don’t have to worry about missing a payment. More crucially, make sure you’re delivering these reminders through channels that the particular demographic is comfortable using.
Best Practice #2: Make communication with your payers a priority, especially those who are struggling to make payments
While it’s important to keep your collections consistent and your employees safe, it’s also critical to keep in mind that your customers are struggling during these times, too. Whether you’re a utilities organization providing families with essential services or a local government office waiting for outstanding payments to be collected, it’s important to lead with empathy.
One way to do this is through personalized communication from your online payment solution. Especially during these difficult times, it’s important to remember that we’re all human beings, in this together. Communicating with your customers in an mindful, approachable manner should make your customers feel comfortable and allows your organization to interact with them in a more human way.
Outbound campaigns are a great example of these more personalized communications. Through outbound campaigns, your organization can send to customers messages notifying them of events that go beyond bill reminders and late payment notices. These campaigns allow billers to keep payers informed of things like shut off notices, updated COVID-19 hours, or emergency communications.
Also, when speaking directly to a customer, remember to always end with a target date; whether that’s a potential payment date or a date for you to check in to talk about payment. During these conversations, be sure to share with them all of the ways they’re able to pay through your online payment system like online, on their mobile device, via text, or over the phone. Also mention all of the different methods they can pay with, like cash, ACH, credit card, mobile wallets, payment installments, and more.
Best Practice #3: Invest in enhanced security
One major reason customers hesitate to make the switch to digital payments is security concerns. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have taken advantage of people’s vulnerability during the pandemic; you may have noticed the substantial increase in COVID-related phishing and social engineering attacks last year. In fact, the volume of cyberattacks grew substantially throughout 2020, causing a spike in concern around the safety of our payment information.
The rise in these attacks have created a heightened sense of distrust towards online payment, which can have a detrimental impact on your organization’s online payment adoption. When payers are too nervous to utilize online payment methods, they’re more likely to make in-person payments, which also aren’t ideal considering the risks of COVID-19.
To reassure your customers that their information is safe and to keep online payment adoption rates up, be sure you’re offering a secure payment platform. The Software as a Service (SaaS) model is the ideal software solution for payments not only for its superior security, but also for the continuous improvements it can make for your organization. It’s also important to ensure that your payment solution is preferably a cloud solution that is both PCI Level 1 and Nacha compliant. These updates require no maintenance on your part and guarantee your organization has the latest security patches to remain compliant with industry standards.
Get the full scope of billing and payments new best practices
The once-gradual shift to digital payment preferences has been hugely accelerated by the impact of COVID-19 – and billers can’t afford to follow outdated best practices.
For additional best practices that can help your billing organization meet your customers where they are while maintaining consistent collections, download our free ebook, The New Biller Best Practices: How COVID-19 has changed billing and payments below.