When it comes to collecting payments and maintaining stable revenue, water utility companies face many challenges. One of the most pressing of these challenges is the issue of ever-increasing water rates due to aging water infrastructures and rising treatment costs across the country. In fact, a 2017 research study from Michigan State University shows that water rates have increased by 41% since 2010. If rates continue to rise at this rate over the course of the next 5 years, it’s estimated that over 40 million households in the U.S. won’t be able to afford water.
This issue of affordability is one that looms large for the majority of water utility companies. When water rates rise drastically, utilities see delayed payments and, in some cases, customers are unable to pay bills at all. Since the utility is responsible for the costs associated with maintaining and treating water regardless of the revenue they collect, this leads to disruption in business services and higher bills across the broader customer base to make up for lost revenue. So how can water utility companies more effectively manage the challenges that come with ever-increasing rates? Utilizing an online payment platform that engages customers and drives higher self-service rates is one important step these utilities can take.
Here are 3 ways that a high-adopting online payment platform can encourage customers to enroll in self-service options and help utility companies combat the challenges created by rising water rates.
1. Enabling customers to pay when and how they want
Ongoing increases to water rates creates an affordability issue for many water utility customers. Many customers will simply choose not to pay when they receive their bill. An online bill payment platform can enable customers to schedule a payment for a later date thus increasing the likelihood that customers will pay their bills on time. Beyond that, enabling customers to self-serve on the channels they use most often – whether that's online, over the phone, or even text -- improves the customer experience. When the bill pay experience is effortless and straightforward, your staff spends less time fielding customer issues and complaints and more time dealing with critical business priorities. One Invoice Cloud water utility client saw a 60% decrease in monthly payment calls as a result of increased online payments and a simplified online user experience.
2. Improving collections through reminders
The most common reason why customers don’t pay bills on time is “I forgot.” A well-designed online payment platform alleviates this issue by sending targeted e-mail reminders and enabling customers to set up calendar or text reminders. These features prompt customers to make a payment at a later date if they are not ready to do so when they first receive their bill. Customer notifications and reminders improve the overall collection process, increase efficiency and reduce the manual effort your staff needs to put into collecting payments in a timely manner.
3. Reducing costs associated with paper bills
Many water utilities face significant costs associated with printing and mailing paper bills, not to mention the time it takes staff to collect and process mailed in payments. One key way to decrease these costs is by encouraging customers to enroll in services like paperless billing. An online payment platform that is designed to engage customers throughout the payment route actually improves the customer experience and leads to increased enrollment in services like paperless billing and auto pay. These higher enrollment rates translate to real benefits for your organization, such as a shortened collections process and improved staff efficiencies that free up your team to focus on other, high value projects. In fact, Invoice Cloud customers have seen annual savings of $30,000 as a result of decreased printing and mailing of bills.
For most water utility companies, the challenge of balancing operational needs with water affordability will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future. To avoid dramatically increasing water rates, utilities need to find other ways to boost revenue to meet critical business goals. One way to do this is by implementing an online payment platform with high self-service adoption rates. This will decrease the amount of time it takes your organization to collect payments, reduce costs associated with printing and mailing bills, and free up staff time to focus on other high priority work. A well-designed online payment platform consistently engages customers to encourage them to self-serve and pay -- on time -- through the channel that is most convenient for them.
Chad Galloway is a business development and channel development strategist with proven experience in delivering growth through strategic partnerships with successful “adjacent” technology companies. With over 15 years of experience in the payments industry and an emphasis on bill payment solutions, emerging markets, adoption, and revenue growth, Chad always finds the medium between what is right for his client/partner and what is right for his company. Chad thrives on helping other businesses like yours achieve their dreams of a Fortune 100 e-payment experience to increase customer adoption, satisfaction, retention, and process simplification.