Without Interruption: Key Takeaways from an Award-Winning Business Transformation

Billing & Payments Insight

During CS Week 2023, Paymentus client Austell Natural Gas was awarded a 2023 Expanding Excellence Award in the Level II, Innovation in People & Process category for Smart Marketing – Our Key to Digital Adoption Success based upon its successful transition into a fully remote organization.

The resulting success of this project offers several key takeaways for billers considering their own transformation projects. Whether it be implementing a new billing and payment solution, expanding current payment offerings or closing branches, there are many principle elements that determine the fate of a project.

Let’s take a closer look at how the best in class Paymentus electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) solution powered Austell’s digital transformation and what billers can learn to ensure the success of their business initiatives.

Austell Natural Gas Goes Fully Remote

In 2019, Austell officially partnered with Paymentus to launch its new online payment portal. This digitization would prove crucial in the coming year. Driven by the pandemic and the need to optimize its resources during this difficult time, Austell decided to permanently close its physical locations and become a fully remote organization.

As an essential service provider, this created a host of unique challenges. Payments still needed to be collected and processed, even without the benefit of a centralized staff. Plus, Austell’s 58,000 customers were already accustomed to paying through their preferred payment methods and channels. To realize success, Austell needed a billing and payment partner that could give Austell’s customers more ways to pay and support the adoption of these new methods.

Expanded Payment Offerings are Essential

The digital transformation required by Austell’s fully remote strategy revolved around expanding its bill payment offerings. The comprehensive, omnichannel Paymentus billing and payment solution significantly increased Austell’s payment optionality with the addition of new digital payment options including:

IPN Partner Logos

Customers were also introduced to new self-serve, pay-on-the-go convenience with a mobile-first site and new features that included Scheduled Payments and Saved Payment Methods.

And while Austell may have closed its physical locations, the utility provider expanded its in-person footprint by offering payments at Walmart, Walgreens and Kroger grocery stores.

The results show that these new self-service, diversified payment options were widely adopted by Austell’s customers:

YoY Increases

Customers expect their payment experience to offer convenience, choice and control. Austell was able to deliver each by greatly expanding the ways its customers could view, manage and pay their bills. Rather than interrupt service, Austell’s digital transformation helped make it even easier for customers to pay their utility bills.

Supporting Change with Marketing and Communications

A key aspect of the project’s success was Austell’s commitment to consistent, comprehensive and clear communications with its customers. To achieve this, Austell worked in close partnership with the Paymentus Client Adoption Success Team (CAST).

CAST is a complimentary offering that delivers full-scale marketing support and campaign development to increase awareness and adoption of digital billing and payment services. But CAST also plays a pivotal role in supporting effective change management by surrounding customers with focused messaging that leverages high customer touchpoints. This was particularly important for Austell, given its limited internal resources.

Working in close collaboration, CAST created a host of materials including:

  • English and Spanish language posters

  • In-person and over-the-phone hold prompts and CSR scripts

  • Social post campaign

  • Bill inserts

Much of Austell’s success in this aspect can be attributed to its ongoing efforts to promote and inform. The utility leveraged all major customer touchpoints with highly targeted messaging that extended well beyond its implementation date. Far from a one-and-done, marketing and communications must be given continuous attention for it to work, and Austell’s results in driving the adoption of its new payment methods proves that out.

Advanced Notifications Drive Customer Response

A hallmark of the comprehensive Paymentus billing and payment solution is that it goes beyond payments to offer advanced communication features. For utility providers such as Austell, this is a crucial tool in helping customers avoid late payments and service cutoffs.

Again enlisting the help of CAST, Austell leveraged the Paymentus Enterprise Communications Manager to draft and send timely notifications including disconnection warnings, which were sent to customers three days prior to a disconnection. Notifications provided a link for customers to make a payment and set up recurring payments to avoid this situation in the future.

Through “Past Due” notifications alone, Austell experienced an average customer response rate of 85%, significantly reducing their number of past-due accounts and customers who would have otherwise been disconnected. This has saved their Operations Center considerable time and money.

Austell’s response rate shows the effectiveness of advanced notifications, especially when delivered at such a crucial time for the customer. Being able to leverage and deploy these types of communications allowed Austell to maintain tight contact with their customers, without the need for physical locations and expanded call centers.

Billing and Payments Driving Business Transformation

Austell’s award-winning transformation showcases the power of billing and payments beyond that of maintaining cash flow. By combining the Paymentus EBPP solution, CAST and advanced notifications, Austell enhanced its customer service and created a seamless transition experience that optimized efficiency while reducing costs to serve.

For more information on Austell’s transformational success, please view our Austell CAST client story and Austell case study. Plus, check out the CS Week Excellence Award video to learn more about Austell’s victory.

All stats courtesy of Austell Natural Gas and Paymentus Agent Dashboard.