Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:38

New Payments Platform to ‘transform’ customer experience for utilities: report

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The advent of Australia’s industry-wide New Payments Platform has opened the way for utilities companies to be able to deliver an enhanced customer experience via real-time 24/7 payments, according to a new joint report from KPMG and the Commonwealth Bank.

According to the report, the adoption of real-time 24/7 payments will enable utilities to deliver the benefits many consumers are seeking, and already experiencing in other sectors.

The NPP was launched in February and was collaboratively developed by Australian banks and financial institutions, with the Reserve Bank noting that the NPP was an important addition to Australia's payments infrastructure and it would provide a “platform for innovation and competition in the provision of payment services”.

The KPMG/Commonwealth Bank report — titled 'NPP and utilities – Transforming the customer experience' — provides a snapshot of the NPP ecosystem, its transformative capabilities, and the payment features and benefits it will deliver to customers in the utilities sector.

Mike Baldwin, executive director, NewTech Product Initiatives, Commonwealth Bank, says that, since the NPP features include greater speed of payment, simple addressing, and 24/7 availability, it offers significant scope for utilities to create better customer experiences in more tangible ways.

“By drawing on the NPP, utility organisations will be able to create new and improved customer experience, such as  combining smart meter readings with customers’ payment options through the NPP, including the options of micro-payments, easy pre-payments, or bill smoothing to match their pay cycles.

“Customers expect payments to be made in a quick, convenient, and simple manner. The NPP can assist in helping utility meet these expectations, and be seen as modern, relevant leaders by adapting to today’s customer.

“As a utilities customer, you could pay every day for example. Likewise, if you are generating electricity via a solar energy system, and feeding the power back into the grid, you could be paid for that generation in real time, every day.”

Cassandra Hogan, national sector leader, KPMG Power & Utilities, said that for customers of utilities companies, the NPP would mean improved efficiency and cash flows – and reduced costs.

“One of the key benefits KPMG sees for customers in the Power & Utilities sector is the potential for managing ‘bill shock’ – the instance where a large bill arrives which may be challenging to pay on time.

“With the NPP, a utility can use smart meter insights — such as daily/monthly consumption — to provide recommendations on how the customer could optimise the tariff they are paying. They might pre-pay to avoid bill shock or establish billing cycles that suit their personal needs. The NPP can help in this process.”

Hogan also notes that in the utilities sector a large proportion of customer calls into a contact centre are payments-related, and any improvement in the payments system that could make it easier for customers would deliver a better experience for all.

“In considering what the NPP can deliver for utilities, we are looking at how the payments process can be made flexible and smooth, how it can help customers better manage their cash flows and how the customer experience more broadly can be enhanced.

“This translates to an expectation of seamless payment options, no ‘bill shock’, and no unnecessary overdue notices or misdirected funds. We need to ask what can be done to support utilities and their customers to interact better, to assist in making the payments process flexible and smooth to better manage cash flow and to enhance the customer experience.”

Hogan said the NPP had the potential to smooth out payments not only between the retailer and customer but also between the retailer and energy generators, other retailers and the Australian Energy Market Operator and other industry networks.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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