I was recently relayed a request from a customer inquiring about adoption rates for online bill pay and how implementing it might impact the workload for the utility.

Let’s take the easy way out and answer the last question first. Clearly, every online payment that would have otherwise been made in-person or through the mail saves staff time and effort, so the impact on workload is significant.

Adoption rates

The question about adoption rates is a little less clear. From a sampling of 16 customers who use our WebPay application, the percentage of their customers who have signed up for online bill pay ranges from 12.7% to 72.4%.

The single, best predictor of online bill pay adoption by your customer base is the demographics of your customers. We have a few customers that are basically large, relatively new, upscale developments with very few commercial accounts. Their online bill pay adoption rates are off the charts compared to other customers.

However, I was able to discern several factors that appear to increase adoption rates. Let’s examine those…

Automatically enroll customers

If your online bill pay solution offers the option to automatically enroll customers, take advantage of it. This can either be in the form of “seeding” the system with email addresses when you first implement it, adding customers as they initiate service, or, ideally, both.

Provide option to pay without logging in

In the process of analyzing the data, I ran queries on how many customers had logged in within the past 30 days (or 60 days for utilities with bi-monthly billing). I compared the total number of online payments to the number of customers who had accessed the system in the past month plus the number of customers on AutoPay (our term for recurring credit cards, which doesn’t require a login).

I was surprised to see that, for a few customers, more payments were completed than customers who had logged in recently plus the AutoPay customers. Digging deeper, I realized this is due to customers who take advantage of what we call QuickPay – the ability to pay without logging on. For one customer, 22.5% of their accounts paid this way – more than the number of customers who had logged in within the past month!

If your online bill pay solution offers the option to allow your customers to pay without logging in, be sure you are taking advantage of it!

Offer ebilling

Of the 16 customers whose data I analyzed, the top three, and four of the top six, in terms of percentage of customers enrolled in online bill pay, all offer paperless billing, also called ebilling.

The obvious advantage of ebilling is the reduction in printing and postage costs. Another, less obvious, advantage is it drives traffic to your online portal. Once there to view their bill, many of your customers will go ahead and pay online at the same time.

As with the option to pay without logging in, if your software vendor provides paperless billing, be sure to take advantage of it!