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Customers are not predictable, but your billing and payment process can be.

Posted April 17, 2012 by Nicole Haskins

Do you still eat the same cereal every morning?

I ask this question because I have met a few people in my lifetime that have eaten the same breakfast every day for ten, twenty, or if you’re my stepfather, thirty years!

For thirty years, he has eaten bran flakes and a glass of orange juice every morning. There is nothing wrong with this of course. If I was this particular bran flakes company, I might love the predictability of this consumer.

In fact, I wish all consumers had a level of predictability throughout the customer/provider relationship. Naturally, some do, including those who always mail their bill in with a handwritten check. Then there are those who walk in every month to pay their bill on the last day it is due. And we can’t forget those who you never see but who send bank checks or online biller payments and forget to put their account number in the memo line. Finally, some call just to yell or be difficult with you and everyone else within earshot. Yes. Some are predictable. However, many environments and circumstances have changed that change this level of predictability.

As a consumer, I have many purchase options. I can buy over the phone, walk into a store, mail in a check, call someone, use a credit card, submit cash to a kiosk, or use a third party to purchase. Additionally, I can perform such transactions at any time through any payment method. For many utilities, I could be the most unpredictable customer possible.

What’s more, the way people pay changes from bill to bill, month to month, paycheck to paycheck. Factors such as technology preferences, tools at their disposal, cash flow, urgency, and even emotion make the predictable customer more and more of an anomaly.

So how do you tap into customers’ patterns?

Provide a solution to your customers’ ever-changing needs. To do so, you need to deliver all of the foundational billing and payment components that private sector companies do. Why? Because your customers have already been conditioned to using them. Implement them into your billing and payments solution and your customers are likely to follow suit.

Things to consider include: a single user interface with a consistent look and feel; real-time, consolidated information; flexibility to adapt to your customers’ changing situations; and multiple payment channels so customers can easily pay using the method that suits their lifestyle.

Not enough money in the checking account this month? Pay by draft on the phone. Received a notification that you’re past due and about to have service shut off (perhaps while you were on vacation)? Pay via web from a credit card on file from the last payment. Unable to get internet service or spending hours commuting? Use the automated phone system to pay with an eCheck.

Today, customers are not predictable. But your billing and payment process can be!

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