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5 Billing and Payments Trends Treasurers Should Keep in Mind

By Todd Shiver executive vice president of TransCentra.

Todd Shiver
Todd Shiver
Increasingly, treasury and finance professionals are uncovering ways to improve both internal and customer-facing activities by closely evaluating their processes for billing and payments. If your treasury and finance team also is in the process of updating your processes, here are five trends to keep in mind.

Paper is not out of style

Across industries, the majority of monthly statements continue to be sent via paper. Pitney Bowes predicts that by 2017, of the 24.5 billion bills delivered annually, 65 percent will still be paper-based. Despite today’s current interest in online and mobile payments, a 2013 Aite study revealed that 70 percent of B2B payments are also made via check.

Even as consumers’ desire for payment alternatives grows, they still value paper. Many who pay online regularly still request a monthly paper statement. Some like the physical reminder to go online and make their payment; others prefer paper for their personal record-keeping purposes. A Phoenix Marketing International study showed that only 29 percent of online bill-pay households have stopped receiving paper statements on all of the bills they pay online.

Do not ignore the value of color

Since paper is not obsolete (nor will it be any time soon), more companies are investing in color print to improve the aesthetics of statements as well as correlating documents, including critical customer communication. It may seem too simplistic, but research bears this out: Simply having a color logo on a statement goes a long way for brand recognition and loyalty.

Pitney Bowes’ research found that adding color and relevant messages to the outside of an envelope increases open rates by two-and-a-half times. The same study indicated that transactional mail has an open rate of 97 percent and is typically read by a consumer for two to five minutes.

Reconsider your lockbox strategy

A monthly bill is a company’s most direct and regular form of customer communication. Therefore, in rethinking how these bills appear, a company should also consider the method with which payments are collected and processed. Organizations that use a lockbox might continue to see its need, but are not necessarily exploring how to improve or even establish a true strategy for lockbox operations.

With a variety of payment channels now available, it is important for a lockbox to combine all payment types received into a single stream for processing. This means pooling retail and wholesale payments, check payments and mobile payments. Organizations with lockboxes should also ensure their provider offers a remote deposit capture (RDC) option. This technology allows a company to scan payments that arrive at the office and ensure they immediately, seamlessly enter the payments stream. Improving lockbox functionality is critical, as efficient and consistent payment processing is paramount for treasury and finance professionals to gain true visibility into the company’s cash flow. And, reliable processing of funds is just as important to the customers making the payments.

Mobile is a must

Despite the persistence of paper and consumers’ continuing desire to see their bills in a tangible form, they do expect to have access to online and mobile self-service options. The Federal Reserve’s 2014 Consumers and Mobile Financial Services Report indicates that 51 percent of the nation’s smartphone owners have adopted mobile banking, up from 48 percent in the previous study. The conveniences of mobile services are no longer a luxury to consumers—they are the majority. Instead of setting your company apart by offering these payment options, the world has advanced to the point that a company sets itself apart in a negative way by not offering an online portal to view statements and make payments or even a mobile app for easy, anytime access to information.

Integrate your payments channels

Companies should invest in platforms that support all payment channels, applying one system that accommodates both paper and electronic bills and payments. By uniting channels, financial professionals can gain the transparency they need into an organization’s cash flow and entire treasury operations, which is simply not possible to achieve with disparate channels and solutions.

Treasury and finance professionals can drive the process for implementing new technologies. But with emerging channels, the billing and payments process is more complex with every passing year. However, with a renewed perspective on this core business function, finance and treasury professionals can lead their organizations to gain more from these necessary and vital processes by making them more simplified and strategic.

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Mercredi 18 Février 2015

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