Local Council Collections: Adding the Digital Touch
In today’s digital world, traditional collections solutions are no longer fit for purpose for local councils and their customers. But, how can local councils adapt and renew to serve the digital customers of tomorrow, whilst meeting regulatory requirements and budget restrictions?
Fundamentally re-examining how customers are communicated with will be a real game-changer for local government. Recent research by illion in February 2020 into how Australians pay their bills, showed that council rates are one of the most neglected bills once overdue. In the survey, more than 30% of late payment respondents left their council bills for longer than 30 days, making it critical for councils to send timely reminders to improve early-stage payment rates and first time resolution, while also reducing costs incurred further down the collections cycle.
Letters and phone calls may work for some, but not all. In 2020, customer contact preferences for late bills is predominately electronic. Self-service options, including web payment portals, ‘Pay by SMS’ and IVR can provide a more tailored customer experience. They are also often more cost-effective than a traditional call centre and offer the end-customer more control. Personalised payments and communications, such as the use of tokenised card details and one-time payment links, can also help decrease friction and reduce barriers to payment.
Council rates are also more likely to be paid by card or account when the bill is received (about 60%). In light of this, it is critical that customers are provided with push payment methods so that they can immediately action billing reminders. We have seen first hand how adding a payment option to a reminder message can increase payment rates – a UK telecommunications company achieved a 29% uplift in payments when they added a payment channel to a reminder SMS.
We recently worked with City of Parramatta council to introduce new automated, self-service touch points into their collections process.The existing collections strategy leveraged high cost, advisor-led outbound calling activity. Time and resource constraints meant the council could only contact a small percentage of its overdue customers. Customers entering collections have the option to make a payment through WebPay – a one-click, personalised payment channel that delivers mobile and web-based options. Since the introduction of the new payment channel, the council has been able to significantly reduce the amount of manual, advisor-led work required, freeing up internal resources to focus on more complex cases.
Other local councils also have a significant opportunity to improve how they communicate and take payments with automated, self-service options, to better serve today’s digital customers, whilst reducing costs and creating new internal efficiencies.
illion Digital Tech Solutions works with local councils internationally to streamline the payments and collections process. We help retailers to offer digital self-service options to improve the customer experience and provide options to help end-customers manage their payments. Want to learn more? Contact us today