SMS offers an alternative to paper billing. Smart Meters Driving Adoption Customer Engagement Supporting the Payment Process Learning from Europe
Holly Merrill is director of product development at BillingTree, a payments processing and solutions provider based in Phoenix.
Text messaging promises benefits in customer service and bill-payment efficiencies. Utilities have been slow to take up the opportunities, but successes in other industries and among European utilities is opening the door to SMS transactions for American power companies.
It’s a multi-channel world. Consumers expect to have a choice in how they communicate with companies—by phone, web, email or chat—and now SMS is increasingly becoming part of customer service strategy. We have a tech-savvy generation Y—the ‘millennials’—that are home-owners and who are already used to e-billing and e-payments for Internet and cell phone use, so why not for power and water?
Yet billing for utilities is still mainly carried out on paper—a huge 63 percent for electricity providers, 64 percent for gas and 73 percent for water, according to a recent PayItGreen survey. But with green strategies currently at the forefront of many business agendas, research from NACHA found that twice as many 25 to 34 year-olds are now adopting paperless billing methods, and that consumers who have switched to an e-billing and payments system were reportedly more satisfied than those who continue using paper-based methods.