Changing the face of paying bills online

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Only 17% of 127 million US adult Internet users want to view their bills online. Almost half prefer mailed bills, according to a Gartner report… and the rest are unsure.

Meanwhile a major electronic billing industry has emerged which offers three main models - electronic bill consolidation, total bill consolidation and biller direct.

With eight million subscribers - a third of whom are using the application - the direct model, whereby consumers view and pay bills directly on the biller’s website, is currently the most popular method. Following in popularity is the electronic and the total bill consolidation models, with less than 100,000 subscribers each.

“Consumers are attracted to the direct model because the applications are free, easy to find, easy to use and they offer frequent data updates and responsive customer service in comparison to the consolidation models,” said Avivah Litan, research director for Gartner. “Their success is testimony that e-billing is indeed a killer application when content is compelling and consumers can save time and money.”

Gartner research indicates a strong appetite for consolidated account and bill payment services among consumers who bank or invest online. But high fees, inadequate customer service and clumsy enrolment processes have kept consumers at bay.

By 2004, however, as the network and technologies mature, direct models will no longer be the most popular with a projected 15 million customer base, while 25 million will prefer to access all their e-bills in one place.

In the total bill consolidation model, consumers are presented electronic images of all their bills - scanned paper or electronic - through a very friendly user interface. Although convenient, high consumer fees and inconvenient enrollment, such as having to change billing addresses for bill scanning purposes, have hindered consumer adoption.

The electronic bill consolidator model consists of consolidators who work behind the scenes gathering electronic bills, and offering presentment services through other firms that interface directly with consumers. High fees, ineffective marketing, lengthy and confusing enrolment, and fragmented customer service have kept enrolment low.

Gartner

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