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Learn How Your Utility Customer Has Changed - Key Takeaways from 2020 KUBRA Consumer Report Webinar

July 2, 2020

Gathering data can be a time-consuming and challenging process. This reality often leads to many organizations shying away from large-scale data collection projects despite the valuable insights they typically deliver. But what if you could access valuable customer data, including billing and payment trends without having to gather it?

That’s where KUBRA comes in.  This year KUBRA conducted another consumer survey on billing and payment trends and compared it to our 2018 survey findings. In January 2020, we surveyed over 1,000 consumers to research their current billing and payment behaviors and attitudes.

We compared our 2020 results with our 2018 research to illustrate how consumer preferences have changed in just two years and delivered our findings in an engaging webinar. Below we share some of the key takeaways of our webinar report for utilities.

Mobile Channels are a Big Deal

The number of consumers paying at least one bill per month via mobile significantly jumped in 2020. Whether it’s a mobile app, mobile website, or text message, mobile is definitely a channel utilities will want to add to their portfolios.

Since 2018, there has been a notable shift in the popularity of mobile apps for paying utility bills. In fact, the mobile app channel has witnessed significant growth, up 25% in the last two years. Despite the sizable increase in mobile app use, utilities should be aware that demand for bank and biller website channels still remains high.

Innovative Payments Should Have a Place in Your Payment Mix

Payments made directly from a bank account are still a top choice for consumers, but innovative payments are gaining momentum. The survey found an increased interest in PayPal and Apple Pay which supports the need for utilities to implement more alternative payment channels to meet consumer expectations.

Innovative payment channels are also making a splash. Although we see most consumers turn to mobile apps today to pay their utility bills, channels that are integrated with artificial intelligence and machine learning are growing in popularity. This gives utilities more of a reason to consider investing in payment channels such as text message and social media.

Convenience is a Strong Motivator

When it comes to mobile payments, convenience is a key motivator and it is having a big impact on billing and payment trends. Whether consumers favor this channel because of the ease, time efficiency, or accessibility, their primary reasons for using mobile payments all revolve around the convenient experience it delivers.

In many cases, convenient payments are tied to convenience fees and we found that Millennials are the most willing to pay a little extra. Convenience fees have never been popular, but this demographic stands out as being more tolerant of paying minor fees for more convenient payment options. Despite survey results indicating that the willingness to pay convenience fees continues to drop, Millennials are more inclined to pay a small fee for more innovative payment solutions. As this cohort continues to move into the role of the bill payer, utilities would be smart to understand how Millennial preferences differ from other generations.

Security Concerns Still Linger

Concerns about security are showing signs of decline, but it still tops the list of reasons why consumers don’t use mobile devices for payment. Myths about the lack of security in mobile payments still exist in the minds of some of your customers. Therefore, utilities should be proactive in addressing these concerns head-on. Be transparent about the lengths your organization goes through to ensure security at every step of the payment process. Your payment vendor should be able to support your messaging with details about the encryption and tokenization involved.

Though security is still a concern, the decline is a positive sign that consumers are becoming more comfortable with mobile payments. The increase in those stating they do in fact make mobile payments is further evidence that this payment channel is ripe for growth.

Paperless Is Becoming More Popular

The primary reasons for receiving a paper bill remain unchanged. Customers still like them because they feel they’re easier to review and they serve as a visual reminder that a payment is due. Nevertheless, the number of consumers who prefer to receive bills by mail continues to plummet. Email and other digital channels are slowly growing, showing a 5% and 8% increase respectively in channel preference since 2018.

Utilities can drive e-bill adoption by raising awareness of its benefits and by tapping into the desires of their customers. Marketing to emotional drivers like convenience, ease, and security can remove some of the obstacles that limit the adoption of paperless billing. Utilities can further incentivize customers through rewards and contests.

Final Takeaways

Mobile is hitting the big time when it comes to payments and billing channels. Specifically, the popularity of mobile apps shows that they are meeting the needs of consumers in 2020. Convenience is a major digital motivator, particularly for Millennials, and this is driving up the use of digital payment options. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has further bolstered demand for mobile billing channels as concerns around safety have started to impact how customers want to pay.  

Utilities wishing to increase e-bill adoption should focus on designing a bill that’s easy to review given it remains the number one reason why consumers choose to stick with mail. This gives utilities something to focus on when looking for ways to drive those mail customers online. Customer preference is still strong for email bill delivery and communication largely because email is known to be reliable, easy, and familiar. For these reasons, it is likely that customers will continue to prefer their utility to use this channel to communicate important information. This is not to say that utilities should abandon the tried and true bill inserts and onserts or the new kid on the block mobile communications. Both are strong communication channels, with mobile communications continuing to gain momentum.

Let us help you take the first step in getting to know your customers better. Pick up valuable insights into your 2020 consumer preferences and billing and payment trends by watching our complete webinar, on-demand here. Or download our complete report here.

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