Hoping to encourage more consumers to receive bills electronically, Fiserv Inc. has introduced a service that lets billers send invoices by e-mail and use text-message alerts to send billing notices to mobile phones.
The Brookfield, Wis., banking technology company's Biller Direct HV service, announced Tuesday, converts bills into PDF files that can be included in standard e-mail messages, and sends text messages with bill summaries.
"Consumers want to receive their bills in many different ways," Adam Craig, the director of product management for Fiserv's biller solutions unit, said in an interview. "The best strategy for billers is to provide access to bills wherever people want to see them."
This is a marked change from the past, when mailing paper bills was the only real option for delivering bills. Craig said "no consensus has emerged" on the preferred electronic format for viewing bills. In fact, he said, consumers might continue to use a variety of different formats.
The hosted Biller Direct HV service is integrated into billers' existing Web sites, enabling the companies to offer consumers a variety of payment options and services. Craig said many companies outsource the billing and payment functions of their Web sites, and customers sometimes have to leave their sites to make a payment through a third-party provider.
According to data compiled by Javelin Strategy and Research, 33% of consumers will view a bill at their banks' sites this year, and 46% will do so at a biller site. By 2014 those numbers are expected to increase to 45% for bank sites and 56% for biller sites. (Craig said many of these people are "double-dippers," who do both.)
When people view the electronic bills, they can visit the billers' Web sites and make payments with credit cards, debit cards or automated clearing house debits.
Including all these functions in a single application on a biller's site will give the companies more control over the "look and feel" of the payment experience and help them enhance their relationships with customers, Craig said.
Offering electronic bills in a variety of formats will likely appeal to customers, who are becoming accustomed to sending and receiving information through numerous methods, Craig said. "We are starting to see that people want new technology solutions to view their bills," he said.