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  • Writer's pictureCarol Bross-McMahon

Go paperless? Make it easy on customers

Many consumer industries are focused on moving customers to e-platforms. Paperless relationships are often quick, more convenient and, best of all, help reduce carbon footprints, which can translate to major savings for companies.

But, there’s no bigger turnoff to a customer than an unnecessary complexity in making the move and the feeling that only the big company is winning in the new e-relationship.

Take, for example, today’s experience with my gas and electric company. Last month I opted to start receiving my gas and electric bill via email. I thought that meant I was going paperless (more on that later). For a paper-filing nut like me, this was a BIG move.

Today I received my first e-bill. The experience was so bad, within 15 minutes I switched back to paper. I hate to do it, but my utility didn’t do their job of making the relationship better.

Here’s the experience from a customer’s point of view:

Today is March 13 but my payment is not due until April 3. Immediately my mind started reeling, “Do I pay now just to be done with it or wait until my due date? I could use the cash now. But what if I forget? Will I get another reminder, or do I need to put one on my calendar?” A hyper-organized girl like me needs to know!

I decided to pay online immediately, only to encounter a $1.50 convenience fee. What? Is this convenient for me or for my utility? Aren’t THEY saving money from my choice to go paperless? (I actually thought I’d get a small rebate for going paperless.)

I changed my mind and decided to print my bill and pay it later with a check. I selected the “View bill” option in my account. Instead of seeing my bill, I’m now in an endless loop of enrolling in paperless or canceling. I canceled but now wonder if I’ll get an invoice in the mail.

I was so confused at this point I decided to call the Call Center. (You can imagine where this is going.) There was no automated option for what I needed so I pressed “0” several times to get to an operator. Once through, I learned that there’s a difference between receiving your bill via email (but still paying by check) and going paperless. The $1.50 is waived if you pay via bank account. Credit card payments still require the fee. No thanks, I want my credit card points.

All of this was too much to wrap my head around on a busy work day so, sad to say, I’m back to paper.

From a customer experience point of view, this example points out the need for clear communication. Want to get more customers on e-billing? Make it impossible for them to say, “no.” The systems exist. It just takes some upfront planning. Then, map the experience from the customer’s point of view and the journey will be easier on everyone.

I’m out of energy on this one.

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