The Shifting Landscape of Government Payments
November 29, 2022 by
Technology that facilitates connections with residents is becoming increasingly important to governments, and digital transactions are no exception.
As resident expectations change and the demand for easy and accessible payment options increases, online and mobile solutions are meeting the needs of community members who expect the convenience of digital interaction. Building online engagement also increases government efficiency, allowing public sector staff to increase capacity and focus more on tasks that can't be automated or performed online. Furthermore, when staff cannot work on-site, digital solutions enable government to continue serving the public.
The results of engagement can be dramatic. For example, the city of Lexington, Nebraska, has saved 80 hours of staff time each month after switching from handling manual utility payments to taking online and interactive voice response payments. Barb Hodges, Lexington's finance director, explains, "We implemented a more efficient way to serve the public, which created more time for us to serve the public in other ways."
In response to the benefits of digital engagement, the public sector is making significant technology investments in online payment solutions. But as it deploys software, the public sector faces the challenge of maximizing community adoption. Unfortunately, building adoption is not as simple as a build-it-and-they-will-come approach. Growing adoption requires letting your community know about the ease and benefits of digital payment options. The tactics below offer a starting point for building your community's use of digital payments technology.
- Digital displays: Any digital displays you have in your community are a great place to share news about electronic payment options or self-service portals. Whether at a community center or below your city hall sign, a digital display is a great way to get noticed.
- Email signatures: Include information about payment tools as a line in your staff's signature blocks. For example, "Save time with our new digital payment option" could link to a landing page that details the offering and its benefits.
- Press releases: Create excitement around available payment options through local media outlets. The release should highlight features and benefits and include guidance about where and how to learn more.
- QR codes: Including QR codes on bills, posters, and other types of printed media is a quick and easy way to direct residents to online payment services.
- Social media: Make the most of the channels you already have. Your current followers and subscribers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube are your ideal adopters. They are already engaging with you digitally. Simply let them know about opportunities to engage with you via mobile or through your website.
- Video: Some of your residents may be less experienced when it comes to using digital tools. A short video is a great way to walk residents through your payment solutions and show them how easy online transactions can be. Don’t forget to share the video to your website and social media channels.
- Website: Create prominent callouts to online payment offerings throughout your website. Provide easy-to-find payment buttons to ensure visitors know exactly where to go to complete transactions. Create landing pages with tips on how to use payment tools and features.
- Bills: A prominently placed QR code and/or payment URL on paper bills can provide a simple way to route residents directly to your online payment site and increase accessibility of digital payment options.
- Bill inserts: Including a message about electronic bill paying with paper bills is a great way to highlight the benefits of paying electronically.
- Floor signs: Floor signs in queueing areas are impactful opportunities for you to highlight solutions that can get community members out of line at city hall and allow them to complete transactions in the comfort of their homes, 24/7.
- Flyers: Any place your community members are waiting in line is a good spot to feature flyers about your online payment options. Service desks, libraries, assessor's office, and other highly visited areas are great venues for flyers.
- Posters: Take advantage of high foot-traffic areas throughout public-facing areas with posters to point to the benefits of paying online or by phone. The posters should offer easy-to-remember links to pages that walk payers through the process. Don't forget elevators and bulletin boards.
Events and In-Person Outreach
- Contests: Use social media contests to engage residents, increase adoption of online payment options, and create buy-in for future digital engagement opportunities. (For example, “Pay online and you’ll be automatically entered to win a free iPad!”)
- Local events: Spread the word about your payment options at county meetings, fairs, and more. Community events like these offer unique and impactful opportunities to connect with residents and promote your online tools.
A Better User Experience
Of course, community adoption of your digital payment options depends on the software's ease of use. Community members' desire for improved engagement cuts across generations. Every generation, by a large margin, wants improved online interactions with clear, easy-to-use technology according to our Government Engagement Across Generations report.
When assessing potential payment solutions, put yourself in the shoes of your community members. Your solution should be customer friendly and offer an intuitive user experience. A software vendor that has experience with the public sector will be able to help you deploy a solution that meets your community's needs and increases your operational efficiency.
In the end, the benefits of increasing electronic community engagement and growing residents’ adoption of digital options for both constituents and local government are clear. For example, Brady Prestwich, utility billing and collections supervisor for Boulder City, Nevada, has witnessed the benefits of electronic bill payment firsthand: "The number of our customers going online to pay bills and sign up for automatic payments increases each month. It will cut your expenses and free up your time, creating more productivity."
To learn more about the shifting landscape of government payments and strategies for attracting adoption of your digital payment solutions, watch our webinar with the Nebraska Association of County Officials.