It's official - we are LIVE with our new Bill Notification Service! Tons of folks have been waiting for this one. Many thanks to our clients that inspired this feature along with prototyping it and fulfilling the role of beta launching it with us.
BNS (as we call it here in the shop) is what many might refer to as "eBilling" except we have taken a different approach in that the notifications could be delivered a number of ways. Email is the most common, which is the primary notification method of BNS, but we are launching it with text message notification capabilities as well. We have some other ideas for more notification methods in the future but right now email and text are a great starting point.
Here's how BNS works: Customers enroll in bill notifications by either email, text or both. As this happens our system will update your billing software to reflect the customer's election. The election in your billing software is so that you can setup your process to NOT print (and mail) bills for these specific customers. Our system then detects when bills are created for these customers by looking each day to see if bills were created the day before. We can modify that to look for bills created any number of days ago. "Yesterday" is pretty common so that the notifications go out right away, but there is equal argument for needing a few days cushion before they fire off in case you want some flexibility to adjust you billing or possibly generate PDF copied of all your bills and get them in place to view online (if you do PDF Bill Presentment, that is). We do not look for same day because we may be looking at 10AM but you don't create bills until 2PM for example, so we want to give you a full day to get those bills done and then we'll look for them. Once a bill is found we gather all of the vitals like the bill amount and due date and we compose an email and/or text and get it out to the customer. The content of the notifications emails can be tweaked to your specifications.
For both email and text the customer must have a valid email address or mobile number. We accomplish this a bit different for each method. For email we simply include a link during an initial setup email confirmation that the customer has to click which tells our system they did in fact get the email. This is important because we need to be absolutely user they are enrolling with a valid, and reachable, email address. Our system will not let the customer enroll in email bill notifications until this is completed. For text it is very similar ... our system will send the customer a verification text message with a PIN and the customer must enter that PIN back into our system to prove they got the text message. Just like email, the customer can't enroll in text message bill notifications until this is done. These steps are done to protect you so that you can be confident the bill notifications can reach the customer. We do not want to put you in a position where a customer complains about not getting a notification (and eventually gets a late notice and possibly a meter lock) when the customer entered an invalid (typo) email address all along.
A customer enrolling in text message notifications would not change the election to not print a paper bill in your billing software, only email election can do that. Text is not authoritative enough to be "paperless" and so email is required for that. For text message notifications we will obtain a phone number in your area code at no charge to you and will use it to text your customers. Right now the text notifications go one way, we only let them know their bill has been created. Very soon we will be adding a feature where customers with saved payment profiles online will be detected and that customer will be given a "reply-to-pay" option where they simple reply with the word "pay" and our system will process the payment. It's a very cool feature and it will automatically be added at some point in the near future for anybody that is using our BNS text feature.
You'll also notice in your Customers report summary you'll see a count of those customers enrolled in email or text notifications and on the Customer Detail screen there will be notes regarding enrollment in bill notifications.
We will also be adding reminders so that any notification that is sent out when the bill is created is later (lets say 3 days before that bill is due) checked again to see if the bill is paid and if it is not the system will send a reminder.
If you are interested in this new service just let us know and we'll fill you in on all of the details. There is a cost per notification that we'll inform you about however you can rest assured that it is AT LEAST HALF that of printing and postage, and depending on your costs it could be much lower. And we will not be charging for multiple notifications like a customer receiving email AND text notifications or for the reminders we will eventually add. We've seen some utilities promote electronic billing so well that they are able to cut their monthly paper and postage costs by very dramatic amounts, let us help you achieve that as well!