Mobile Billing: Growing Opportunity

Working within the golden triangle of security, ease of use, and value 
by Mia Papanicolaou

There was a time, not so long ago, when the best and most effective way of sending a bill to a customer was to deliver it to them by mail. In a world where mobile devices are almost ubiquitous and in constant use, that should no longer the be case. 

Done effectively, mobile billing — whether app-based or email — is cheaper and more convenient than traditional billing methods. 

Think about it for a moment. It is estimated that 500 billion invoices a year are sent by organizations (business or government) globally. For any company that still has a large base receiving mailed bills, the return on investment achieved from converting to digital bills is significantly faster than most IT projects and can provide substantial ongoing savings. Mobile billing is also a way of encouraging customer self-service, meaning overall cost-to-serve should reduce.

But what does effective mobile billing entail? For a start, any mobile billing initiative should fit within the golden triangle of security, ease of use, and value. 

Here’s how to make the most of mobile billing. 

Security 

With the right measures in place, mobile billing can be more secure than more traditional methods. Practically, it’s much simpler to obtain someone’s confidential information by intercepting their post than it is with a device that they have on them constantly. 

Even so, when it comes to mobile billing, it’s vital that a business ensure the information it sends out is secure, even if the device it ultimately arrives on is not.

Due to the proliferation of mobile users globally, security threats directed at mobiles specifically are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Hackers are targeting mobile payment systems as well as mobile browsers themselves.

A report from mobile security company Zimperium found there were more mobile security breaches in the first half of 2017 than in the whole of 2016. 

Companies that bill via mobile app or email need to take as many steps as necessary to protect the customer’s data. While there is no single, comprehensive federal law regulating the collection and use of personal data in the U.S., there are sufficient state laws in place to make it a must-do rather than a nice-to-have. 

This starts with fostering the right kind of customer behavior. 

Businesses should never, for example, send an “amount due” notification in an email, with a link directly to a payment page that asks for banking or credit card details. 

Recipients familiar with this process won’t think twice about clicking on links in any email and “surrendering” their banking details. This makes them an easy target for fraudsters who send out an “amount due” email that links back to a fraudulent payment page. 

It’s also important to remember that the biller has no control over the device on which the information will be received. So, to be safe, it’s better that the biller assumes the device is unsecured and takes the necessary steps to encrypt or encode access to the files. 

If confidential documents or data are made accessible via a proprietary application, the application must not automatically log the user in or store the login details. If it’s not possible to add a security layer into the app process, then each document needs to be protected.

To really protect the personal data inside a document, it should be encrypted and password protected with a medium to strong password.

Ease of Use 

Think about it for a moment. What do customers really want to do when they receive or view bills on their mobiles? They want to see the things like amount due, due date and how to make a payment. 

This information should, therefore, be prominently included on the bill in a way that is easy to see no matter what size mobile screen the customer is using. 

Being able to pay directly from the bill is especially important if this sits outside an Internet banking portal. Not only does it make things more convenient for customers, it also means the business is reducing its days sales outstanding. 

Meeting this need for ease of use and the above-mentioned need for security can be a delicate balance. While it’s obviously important to keep customers’ information as safe as possible, businesses also need to ensure they don’t make it difficult for them to access this information. 

Businesses that get those factors right will find moving customers from paper to mobile becomes an easy sell — customers will happily convert when they experience the convenience of a digital bill over a paper one. 

Value 

Finally, it’s important that a company’s mobile billing initiatives add value to the relationship the customers have with that company. 

If a business is just sending out a bill and nothing else, the value it provides is limited. 

One way for a business to add value is to partner with an electronic billing provider that allows it to communicate with its customers across multiple channels. That way, it can enable the recipients to view their bill on multiple devices, for when they want to dig into the detail on the bill, for example, it’s easier to see or to interact with the data more smoothly on a larger screen. 

Here’s how that might look: The customer logs into the business’s app to check the basics, such as the amount owed, the payment due date, and where the money needs to be paid. From there, the customer should be able to open an interactive, content-rich version on whichever device she’s most comfortable using (be that a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone) should she want to dive deeper into the billing information.

Businesses that aren’t charging a fixed fee every month might also provide their customers with a dashboard which shows them how much they’ve paid each month over the past year. Pairing that with some helpful hints on keeping their bill as low as possible will increase the likelihood the business will retain them as a customer. 

Another way for a business to add value is to make it as easy as possible for its customers to contact it. If they want to query the bill, for instance, they should be able to quickly tap to call or email the business’s customer service department. 

Making the Most of Mobile Billing 

It’s clear that any organization looking to implement an effective mobile billing solution needs to ensure that it’s secure, easy to use, and adds real value to the customer experience. 

Failing to do so means missing out on the benefits mobile billing provides to both customers and the organization itself — meeting customers in the channel they want to interact, whilst improving payment rates and cost containment. 

It’s also important to remember that if businesses are going to reap these benefits, they have to stay up to date with the evolving nature of mobile billing. Where customers want a business to be changes all the time; it’s up to the business to keep up.   

Mia Papanicolaou is the COO of Striata, which provides strategy, software and professional services that enable digital communication across multiple channels and devices. The company provides expertise in message design, generation, security, delivery and storage, enabling clients to encrypt, send and store confidential documents; execute integrated marketing campaigns; and distribute high-volume electronic communications. 

Mia Papanicolaou started her career in South Africa in the media sector before moving to the electronic messaging space, where she served as business director for email marketing eMessageX. She joined Striata in 2006 as head of Email Marketing. Papanicolaou moved to the UK as head of Operations in 2010, after which she moved to the U.S. in 2013 to take up the post of general manager of the U.S. region. She currently heads up North, Central and South American operations. Papanicolaou is a regular speaker on her areas of expertise: secure electronic document delivery and email marketing.

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