Past blog posts have relied on research from the Fiserv Billing Household Survey, now called Expectations & Experiences: Consumer Payments, which describes consumer bill pay trends. You can read those previous posts from 201320152016, 2018, and 2019.

The 2021 Expectations & Experiences: Consumer Payments survey is now available here. This year’s report includes six findings, of which all but one are relevant for utilities:

  • Times are tough for many people
  • When paying bills, consumers like options
  • Older consumers look to new types of payments
  • Use of mobile payments methods is on the rise
  • Autopay use holds steady, but some nonusers could be swayed
  • P2P payment use is high, but awareness gaps remain

Let’s analyze the first five, which all apply to utilities.

Difficulty paying bills

Nearly four in ten consumers (38%) struggle to pay all their bills each month. Of particular importance to utilities, of the top five bills consumers have difficulty paying, three are utility bills – electricity is #1, water #4, and gas #5.

Customers want options

Being able to use a credit or debit card are the top two “must have” items. Third on the list are autopay options. These are even higher for millennials and Gen Z customers.

Seniors like automatic payments

The use of automatic payments by senior citizens rose from 65% in 2019 to 79% in 2020. Some of this is likely due to COVID-19, but this is still a strong indicator that if you’re not offering bank drafts, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Mobile payments are becoming more popular

With all age groups except baby boomers (they remained the same), the use of mobile payments increased from 2019 to 2020. This means if you don’t have a mobile payment app – or at least a website with responsive design (so it automatically adapts to phone and tablet screens) – you are missing out on ways your customers would like to pay.

Reasons customers don’t use automatic payments

Perhaps the most interesting statistic from the report is the reasons nonusers of automatic payments gave for not doing so. Number one on the list was needing clear directions how to turn automatic payments on or off. This was followed by being able to use debit cards, checking accounts (ACH), and credit cards.

Is it possible this means all you need to do to generate more autopay customers is to provide better information about how to start and stop the process?