Key Questions for Better Bill Paying

November 19, 2020 by Peter Weed

Key Questions for Better Bill Paying

With reduced or uncertain revenue streams, local governments are searching for creative ways to continue operations, particularly in payments. At the same time, constituents expect to be able to pay their bills from desktop computers or even mobile devices. In fact, the Federal Reserve’s 2019 research revealed that core noncash payments increased by 30.6 billion transactions from 2015, reaching 174.2 billion in 2018. This creates significant opportunity to leverage electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP) to facilitate convenient payment of utility bills, court fees, property taxes, tax bills, parking tickets, licensing and permit fees, and more. EBPP is clearly the future of revenue collection, as it benefits all stakeholders in important ways – especially in our continued remote context.

Brady Prestwich, utility billing and collections supervisor for Boulder City, Nevada, is witnessing the trend and benefits of EPBB first-hand: “The number of our customers going online to pay bills and sign up for automatic payments increases each month. (EBPP) will cut your expenses and free up your time, creating more productivity.”

To leverage these benefits and adopt EBPP, jurisdictions should consider the three questions below. Answers from payment vendors will ensure that your chosen partner will simplify the payments ecosystem and effectively meet community needs.

1. What is the payments solution going to cost us?

The good news is that your payments solution vendor should offer you a flexible fee structure with no subscription or licensing costs for software. The flexible fee structure means you can provide predictable rates for your electronic bill payers – whether you pass the fees along or absorb them. Keep an eye out for hidden fees such as statement fees, annual fees, gateway fees, or monthly minimums. Ensure you have a full understanding of contract terms and any additional fees. It’s important to understand that the subject of fees is complex. For example, local regulations can dictate how fees are assessed. A solid vendor with experience in the public sector will work with you to develop a fee structure that meets your community’s unique needs and budget requirements.

2. What are the advantages of a single payments vendor?

As the Government Finance Officers Association (2020) notes, “Fewer disparate solutions means more control.” Put simply, a single payments solution simplifies your workflow. You only need to work with one vendor, streamlining software integrations. Ideally, your vendor offers a proven EBPP hardware/software/compliance solution with native integrations to your core systems. Your provider should handle all aspects of the payment process, including onboarding, payment support, reconciliation, and hardware. An integrated solution means financial data is uniformly updated throughout the organization, improving payment activity reconciliation, eliminating silos, and providing accurate, timely financial data to help you make more informed decisions.

3. How will the vendor help with engagement?

An ideal vendor will assist you with strategies to let your community know about EBPP options and benefits. From providing tips about email and social messaging to advice on bill inserts, an experienced vendor will work with you to build participation.

Of course, customer adoption is ultimately related to convenience and usability. A payments system should include the following for maximum engagement:

  • A user-friendly, public-facing portal that makes bill paying easy and convenient
  • Real-time payment processing that reflects updates to payer account balances immediately
  • Options for payers to set recurring payments and schedule payments for a future date
  • Acceptance of various payment methods, including ApplePay®, credit cards, and e-checks
  • The option for customers to pay as a guest for quick single payments or as a registered user to access history and streamline account connectivity

Electronic bill payments and presentation stands to streamline processes, secure revenue, and better serve digitally engaged residents. Along with other means to operate virtually, the functionality also scales well into the future to stabilize local governments no matter what comes next.

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