Acceptance of secure ‘push’ electronic billing direct to individual email inboxes is rising steadily in South Africa to the point where companies, particularly in the mobile telephony, banking and financial services sectors, are achieving customer adoption rates of 30% or more.
Veronica Haupt, Head of eBilling Sales at the Johannesburg office of Striata, says one of the major factors in the growth of direct or ‘push’ secure eBilling in South Africa is the massive uptake and promotion of eBilling by the banks and service providers.
“As more companies offer eBilling to their customers, these same customers come to expect the offering from their other providers”, says Haupt. “Consumers are also becoming more aware of the environment and are looking for ways to ‘go green’. Choosing an eBill over a paper bill directly contributes to saving trees, and customers love it.”
Surprisingly, adoption rates in South Africa are significantly better than the UK and US, even though these countries are traditionally seen as being more technologically advanced than other countries.
Says Haupt: “One of the biggest reasons for this in overseas markets, is that eBilling typically refers to a ‘pull’ solution. ‘Pull’ eBilling solutions require customers to go to the supplier’s website, log in with a user name and password and execute multiple click-throughs in order to view their bill.
“Adoption for ‘pull’ systems is just 5,1% internationally according to a Gartner report. Customers generally find fetching their bills from a website inconvenient, and periodic technical problems on websites and congestion at peak periods don’t help either.”
Haupt adds that “pull” systems by their very nature can be viewed as not “delivering” the invoice or statement to the customer, which is a legal requirement for billers — the difference being that the “pull” system relies on customers to “collect” their bill from a website. Essentially this means that companies who implement a “pull” solution are more likely to continue to also provide a paper bill to fulfil the legal requirement of delivery.
As the value of eBilling lies in convenience and reducing costs through turning off paper, the “pull” option of requiring customers to go to a website is becoming redundant. The fact that email technology confirms receipt of an eBill mailed directly to the customer means proof of delivery is not an issue. The “collect your bill from our website” model makes paper turn-off unlikely with marginal, if any, savings for the biller – and minimal environmental benefits too.
Striata’s experience with providing “push” eBilling services to companies in the various industries, including telephony, digital entertainment, financial services, banking and Internet service provision is that the psychology of receiving a secure bill/statement directly into one’s email box closely matches the traditional letter in the post box scenario.
“This makes the transition from paper to ‘push’ electronic billing easier for a lot of people as it’s a concept that they’re familiar and comfortable with,” says Haupt. “The convenience factor of having one point at which you receive your bills holds considerable benefit, particularly for a customer who receives multiple bills from utilities providing power and water, landline telephone and, mobile ‘phone providers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), banks and others.
“Imagine the inconvenience of having to visit six or seven different websites with all the attendant logins, passwords and click-throughs merely to have sight of invoices. However, some South African organisations still persist with the ‘pull’ method despite the fact that viewing a bill is a ‘grudge’ action and people generally are reluctant to put in extra effort to fetch their own bills.”
Haupt points out that the number of families with home computers or Internet connectivity at work is steadily increasing as is their reliance on email as a quick, reliable and convenient communication medium. “As Internet access becomes more and more pervasive, it is opening the way for ‘push’ eBilling to become the norm.”