Is the way we pay our bills changing forever?

By Paul O’Hanlon, Business Development Manager

Since lockdown began in the UK, the number of direct debits being cancelled has skyrocketed. Some of our clients have seen cancellations double in the past six weeks and over 1.6 million mortgage payment holidays have been offered to homeowners impacted by Covid-19 (UK Finance, 24th April 2020).

Never has communication between provider and consumer been more important, yet not all customers are arranging payment holidays before cancelling direct debits, or fully exploring other payment options. Compounding this, call centres are under strain from both an increase in inbound calls and a reduced workforce. Whilst the vast majority of consumers can apply for payment holidays via online forms, there is often a delay in the provider responding as well as a lack of true digital channels and options to connect.

When a consumer cancels a direct debit, they are unlikely to make a manual payment in the immediate future. How can organisations improve automated communication and payment options without further burdening their contact centres? We advise clients to adopt a four-step communication procedure during these unprecedented times:

1. Engage customers digitally

Customers expect seamless and personalised ways to interact with their providers. When a customer cancels a direct debit, they should receive a communication based on their preferences, usually a text or an email, that includes a web link to a number of self-service options. Consumers can communicate their situation and payment preferences through this channel and the provider can make it clear there are other options available to pay their bill.

2. Make it easy to pay

Make sure customers know of the different ways they can pay in the future: IVR, ‘Pay by SMS’, web, email and mobile. If a customer does make a payment, utilise card capture functionality to register their payment details for future use. This can enable frictionless payments over several digital channels, giving the customer flexibility over when and how much they pay, enabling them to keep their account on track.

3. Put the customer in control

Customers are cancelling their direct debits to give them better control over compromised finances. Digital communications via the channel of their choice, available 24/7, will make consumers more comfortable in dealing with a sensitive issue. Handing them the power to set their payment plans, (whether that is a promise to pay, regular payments or a payment holiday) with self-service options will help them to better engage with their supplier.

4. Understand affordability

We are all hopeful that, as lockdown eases, many people will have the financial recourses to re-start regular payments to their supplier. Organisations can then focus on affordability of payments and the support of vulnerable customers.  It’s at this point that suppliers should undertake omni-channel affordability assessments to set affordable and sustainable payment plans.

Continuing to provide customers with flexible self-service payment options will be crucial in assisting customers back to financial normality. Those businesses that embrace this approach long-term will benefit from reduced customer churn, improved customer loyalty and manageable contact centre volumes.

illion Digital Tech Solutions works with some of the world’s largest blue chip companies to streamline the payments and collections process. We help organisations to offer digital self-service options that improve the customer experience and provide options to help end-customers manage their payments. Want to learn more? Contact us today

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