When it comes to the influence of technology on consumers globally, Australia is at the forefront. We are both ‘early adopters’ and ‘fast followers’, and we expect to be accessible to the most innovative solutions available anywhere in the world. But what about when it comes to receiving and paying bills? You would think that once we had the ability to receive electronic bills, we would have abandoned postal delivery never to return! But we haven’t.
The average working Australian now receives between 110-130 emails per day1 yet the average percentage of bills sent via email in Australia has declined to less than 15%.2 We respond to email bills badly – we normally don’t have time to action it immediately so it gets lost in the email inbox. Is it any real surprise to billers then that email billing has invariably led to an increase in unpaid notices and consequently, increased costs to chase late payments?
A study in Denmark found that 59% of customers receiving an e-bill had to be sent a reminder notice compared to 29% of those who received bills in the traditional paper format.3 Additionally, 47% of those who received their bills via email had to call customer service at an average cost of $9 per call.3 Respondents cited the main reasons for not paying the e-bill on time was they “hadn’t received the bill” or “maybe it was in their SPAM folder”.3 This study discovered that e-billing practices aren’t necessarily cheaper than paper, and what was once considered the holy grail of bill fulfillment and delivery has become less effective than first expected.
So what to do? We can’t just accept this as a failed venture and abandon digital reform when it comes to bills, especially when the imperatives are both financial and environmental. The huge increase in postage charges in Australia alone has inevitably forced some billers to pass the charge on to customers. But is this fair when billers aren’t offering a viable alternative to paper?
We are living in an age where approximately 80% of Australians own a smartphone.4 We use it for almost everything we once did on a desktop. That has created a consumer expectation that everything can be accessed on a mobile, and everything should be easy to use. People are demanding mobile convenience and a better payment experience. For billers, this should signal an opportunity to offer a time-saving mobile solution for their time-poor customers.
So when it comes to billing, customers need (and expect) more than just an electronic presentation of a paper bill. Ideally, we should be able to receive bills on our mobile, and, with a few clicks, pay the bill without needing to switch between screens to log into online banking or enter 16-digit reference or credit card numbers on a tiny keyboard.
If customers are asked to play their part in reducing the cost of printing and postage of paper bills (and of course reduce their carbon footprint), they have to be given a compelling reason to do so. Otherwise, the old path of disincentive and penalty ends up being the only course of action. Any program designed to effectively create a shift in behaviour must be built around the payer, not the biller. Only when you use technology to improve the customer experience can you precipitate true behaviour change.
1 The Radicati Group
2 Australia Post Consumer Survey Mail Findings
4 Deloitte: Mobile Consumer Survey 2015 – The Australian Cut.