By Gavin Dunlop, CEO, Actnet

JOHANNESBURG – April 02, 2015 – The benefits of electronic bill delivery (eBilling) and payment are undeniable. Although these services have been promoted for a decade, they are only now beginning to reach critical mass in South Africa, as electronic bill payments are becoming more popular and widely accepted. However, the technical and financial effort required for a company to implement an in-house eBilling and payment solution can be both challenging and expensive.

An innovative alternative is for organisations to outsource their requirements to an eBilling and payment service provider, allowing for economies of scale, breadth of features and all the necessary security safeguards, whilst still delivering value and brand identity to the customer, all without a huge up-front investment.

When electronic bill payment first came onto the scene, consumers typically received their printed bills through the postal service but paid them online. With the growing acceptance of eBilling, this is all changing, to the point that consumers are not just able to pay their bills online, but to receive them electronically as well.

Companies are now feeling the pressure of two very powerful market forces. Firstly, in some segments especially telecoms, deregulation is leading to increased competition and shrinking margins. Secondly, compliance requirements are simultaneously raising operating costs.

These dynamics drive the need for a more efficient and cost effective way to communicate with customers. eBilling and payment can help fulfil these needs, using the Internet to leverage and extend a company’s current business systems and processes, while employing the existing banking infrastructure.

How eBilling and payment can help you

The primary benefits of eBilling and payment are reducing costs, while improving customer satisfaction and retention. There’s no argument that handling paper bills is expensive: the outbound cost of paper, printing, collation and postage; the time consuming and labour intensive inbound process extracting payments from envelopes, entering payment data, reconciling the collected payments and physically making deposits. Besides automating the publishing and distribution of bills, a good eBilling system will also enable the electronic payment of transactions, which eliminates these arduous aspects of bill processing.

The implementation of an eBilling and payment system can also lead to the reduction of customer support costs, which can be a significant expense. Past attempts to lower customer support costs through automation have used voice response systems for incoming customer calls. However, these systems tend to frustrate the customer with a bewildering array of verbal menu options and with an insufficient amount of useful billing information. As a result, the customer often ends up in a person-to-person dialogue with a customer support representative anyway, sometimes after a lengthy and aggravating wait.

This level of human interaction is often necessary and justified, but it is expensive for billers to provide and maintain. In contrast, a good eBilling and payment solution will enable customers to review and access their billing information online. As they are able to obtain much of the needed information themselves, customers are far less likely to make customer service calls. If a customer service call is necessary, the agent can view the same bill statement and payment information as the customer. This reduces costs by shortening the time it takes to resolve a customer’s issue.

Customer self-service is a core element of eBilling and payment; by enabling customers to view bills and make payments at their convenience, to securely access billing and payment information in a familiar format at any time, from anywhere, does more than make the bill payment process easier and faster for the average consumer – it reinforces customer loyalty.

The first step in improving customer retention is to understand your customers and their needs. eBilling and payment allows for a customer’s billing records to be analysed for important demographic information and buying patterns. As an added bonus, electronic bill delivery and payment enables organisations to track their customers’ online clickstreams and analyse which information and features they use on a regular basis and which online promotions are of interest to them. From this, they can gain valuable insight into what really matters to their customers, cater to their needs and create opportunities for cross-marketing complementary products and services.

For consumers, eBilling and payment is all about convenience and ease of use. eBilling and payment offers consumers an easy, convenient, fast and efficient way to access, manage and process bills. As all of their billing information is in electronic format, it’s easy to see which bills need to be paid and by when. If there are questions, billing details can be retrieved with a simple click of a mouse; and it is equally easy to search previous billing statements and payments.

With apparent benefits to both parties, can your business afford to miss out?

About Actnet Print Concepts

Actnet is a privately owned company established in 1987. Its vision is to ensure that the vital business documents of both SMEs and enterprises are captured, archived, preserved and delivered to their customers. The company has developed a proprietary Electronic Document Delivery (EDD) solution that is unmatched in the South African environment. The company also specialised in enterprise output management, centralised print management, document management, document output and data enhancement.

CONTACTS:

Actnet: Janine Buckley, +27 (0)11 2676444, JanineB@actnet.co.za>, www.actnet.co.za

icomm: Debbie Sielemann, +27 (0) 82 414 4633, debbie@pr.co.za, www.icomm-pr.co.za