5 Ways utilities use digital-first kiosk payments to improve the customer experience for cash payers

Customers who pay in cash are often hard to reach for utility providers. Because these customers must pay in person, they often don’t engage with their utility’s website, where they could find useful information like payment plans or relief programs. Cash customers are often the people who would benefit most from these programs. Many people who pay in cash are under-banked and can’t pay online with a credit card or bank account. 

When a utility doesn’t have a way to directly collect cash payments, they sometimes outsource this to a third party like a Western Union or a check cashing store. This provides another layer of separation between utility providers and some of their most vulnerable customers. Utilities miss an opportunity to provide helpful customer service. And customers face more hurdles to pay: they’re often hit with extra fees from these third-parties on top of their bills, and they are required to have their bill on hand and know exactly what balance to pay.

There are also indirect costs for the utility when taking cash payments via third parties. Late payments, payments that don’t exactly reflect the amount due, and a lag between when a payment is made and when it is reflected in the customer information system (CIS) can result in service interruption, customer confusion, and calls to the customer service center. 

New CityBase session transfer technology enables digital-first cash payments, allowing customers to start a transaction online with their utility provider and complete it in person on their utility’s self-service payment kiosk at a later time that’s convenient. Utilities can designate the payment window, such as within 24 hours, buying the customer more time to pay their bills and avoiding service interruptions or late fees. 

Here are several ways this technology helps utilities to improve the customer experience.


1. Provide customers a free way to pay

Cash customers can pay their bills for free on a payment kiosk. CityBase never charges a fee on top of a cash payment. This is helpful for everyone, and especially for customers who want to make incremental payments toward their bill each month. 


2. Reduce late fees and service interruptions

Kiosks can provide 24/7 self-service payment options for customers. A customer who is approaching their deadline on a bill can initiate a payment online. The transaction initiation is reflected immediately against a person’s account, since CityBase web payments are integrated via real-time API to a utility’s underlying CIS. Customers receive instructions on how to complete their payment on a nearby kiosk, and by when. They can pay at a time that works for them on a 24/7 kiosk. 


3. Improve transparency about a person’s bill 

Customers can look up their bill on their utility’s website using any information available in the utility’s CIS, like a service address, customer name or phone number, or their account number. Unlike when they pay via third party, customers find their up to date account balance, and can see other information like the minimum payment due in order to avoid a late fee. 


4. Promote helpful services like payment plans and relief programs

When cash customers have a reason to visit their utility providers’ website, they find additional information and services. They can enroll in payment plans that make it easier for them to pay their bills each month. And they can find benefits they qualify for, like relief programs on their bills.


5. Own the entire customer experience

Utilities can connect more closely with their hard-to-reach cash customers, instead of outsourcing this important interaction. They receive fewer inbound calls from confused customers, and instead communicate proactively to customers about their account and other relevant services. Online, customers find real-time information about their account balance, past payments, and upcoming due dates. At a kiosk, customers find all the same real-time information about their account balance, and can easily pay their full bill or a different amount. Payment kiosks are specific to the utility, offering streamlined service that takes less than a minute for a customer to make their payment. 

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