There are a number of trends impacting traditional mail delivery as we know it. Think just of the most recent: IMb postponement, postage increases and the possibility of five-day delivery. While solutions like IMb barcodes and other innovations speed mail processing and delivery, we can't help but be aware of the competition traditional mail faces from evolving technologies like the Internet and more affordable cell phone, smartphone or iPAD capabilities. As these technologies continue to mature, there is an increased interest and demand for paperless options, forcing business mailers to examine their current offerings and implement smart electronic document and billing management solutions that meets their customers' evolving preferences.

    NACHA-The Electronic Payments Association's PayItGreen Survey 2010 revealed there is a direct correlation between consumer satisfaction and paperless billing behaviors. Consumers who use online-only statements and bill pay report greater satisfaction and connection with their credit union or financial institution compared to consumers who receive statements by mail. Additionally, studies indicate customers who use online banking are more loyal and profitable because they are more likely to utilize additional services than non-users.

    Market Drivers for Implementing EBPP
    NACHA reports that younger generations-those who grew up with the Internet-are more likely to prefer electronic billing and payment than their parents. It should be no surprise then that the telecommunications industry is leading the adoption of electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP). Other industries, such as utilities and financial institutions, have also been actively promoting EBPP. Inevitably, most businesses will add EBPP solutions to their mix and for good reason. Implementing EBPP offers the opportunity to save labor and time, speed cash flow and reduce collections.

    Organizations that choose to adopt EBPP provide added value to their customers as well with benefits that include:

    · Convenience
    Customers save valuable time with electronic statements because they can view their current and past statements by simply logging onto a secure website. This eliminates the need for paper storage. Online bill payment capabilities save time and postage costs, as well as strengthen customer satisfaction and loyalty for the businesses implementing them. And since e-payers have been proven to pay earlier and more consistently, businesses will enjoy faster collection, reduced payment processing time and fewer late collections.

    · Postal Savings
    Many may not know this, but postage can account for as much as 75% of the cost of mailing a bill. At the same time USPS relaxed its deadline for moving the IMb codes, it also announced an increase in postage rates that took effect on April 17 of this year. Reflecting the new realities USPS faces in its business, the increases may barely be noticed by ordinary consumers, but will have some impact on business mailers and mail service providers mailing volumes in the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of pieces.

    · Efficient document retrieval methods
    When there are questions regarding a bill or statement, a customer service representative can immediately and easily access past statements or bills online anytime in multiple formats, and in true fidelity. This minimizes the amount of time a customer must spend on the phone when calling with a complaint or questions because the document in question is easily accessible.

    Reduced confusion Today's technology allows for creating statements and invoices that are identical to the printed copy, and this goes a long way toward reducing confusion or discomfort consumers might experience with a change from hard copy to electronic billing.

    Reminders for customers who choose to receive printed invoicesConsumers claim that a primary reason for resisting EBPP is that they need to receive the paper invoice in the mail or they simply forget about it. In fact, the NACHA study referred to earlier indicates that while most consumers prefer to receive a printed invoice or statement through the mail, these same consumers are more and more likely to make an electronic payment either through their bank or directly at the biller's website.

    Benefits to Business Mailers
    When a business mailer chooses to invest in electronic billing solutions, it is usually to reduce costs along with providing customers with the option most preferred for receiving and paying their bills. However, here are some additional things that are important to consider when implementing an EBPP system. First, already efficient paper-based processes in place may have to be adjusted for online presentment and collection. It will be critical to have the ability to access statements for printing or viewing online as well as managing document status in real time. Systems that allow businesses to authorize or deny printing and viewing statements on an account-by-account or statement-by-statement basis - with tiered permission levels - have proven to be extremely useful when it comes to workflow efficiencies and compliance. Additionally, having the ability to track a customer's online use makes it possible to gather data on the information and features the user finds most beneficial as well as their buying patterns.

    The More Things Change
    To stand an old saying on its head, we might say that, "The more things change, the more things will change." Electronic communications of all types have brought about dramatic changes in the way people share information, exchange ideas and even shop. Certainly the Postal Service has been impacted by this through a significant drop in the volume of First Class mail it delivers -which is changing the way it does business. It must continue to fine-tune and streamline its procedures for handling high-volume mail with improved time and cost efficiencies like IMb, as well as offer innovative methods of package and parcel shipping to better compete with companies like FedEx and UPS. And five-day delivery is most likely an idea whose time may be coming very soon because of the cost reductions it promises.

    Of course, the cost and impact of the new technology is not carried entirely by USPS. Businesses also bear the expense of keeping pace with the changes, of retooling their own systems, and developing methods of secure, electronic communications. As the options increase for how we receive information, every industry will be compelled to review their current situation, assess their resources, and choose a mailing and communications strategy that best fits their customers' needs. The enhanced workflow options, reduction in costs and improved customer service capabilities EBPP provide are reasons enough for business mailers to research and seriously consider the benefits that adopting EBPP offer to your business.


    Top Advantages of EBPP
    · Accessible invoice and statement options
    · Reduced postage costs
    · Increased time and resources
    · Efficient document retrieval methods
    Reduced confusion with presentmentE-payment assists customers who choose to receive printed invoices· Access to statements for printing or viewing online
    · Ability to manage mailing pieces
    · Manage documents status in real-time

    Harry Stephens is President, Datamatx. Visit www.datamatx.com for more information.
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