Over the last decade, the insurance industry has seen dramatic changes in the billing and payment process. In order to keep up, insurers now need to support multiple channels and evolving payment methods. To this end, a recent report from Fiserv Inc. contends that enabling electronic billing and payment has a significant impact on customer satisfaction, retention and profitability.

Customers who receive paperless electronic bills at a financial institution Web site, or who use recurring payments, according to Fiserv, are more profitable for the billing organization. Among early tenure customers (customers for less than 28 months):

•    Electronic bill (e-bill) users are 12.5% less likely to leave the company, are 35% more likely to pay their bills on time and purchase 20% more products than paper bill users.

•    Automatic, recurring payment users are 14% less likely to switch companies, and 86% more likely to pay their bills on time.

This research comes from a study conducted by Aspen Marketing Services on behalf of Fiserv, in which 8 million Qwest Communications residential customers were evaluated over an 18-month period.

Though the research comes from a different industry, Fiserv believes it can apply to the insurance industry.

"Offering electronic billing and payment services benefits insurers in multiple ways,” Michelle Flint, GM, Biller Solutions, Fiserv, tells INN. “As this study shows, customers who rely on electronic billing and payment services are not only more loyal, they also tend to use more products.

"In addition," Flint adds, "electronic billing services allow insurers to reduce the costs associated with paper bill handling and production. Payments received electronically can result in increased payment accuracy and fewer payment exceptions. There are also numerous opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling additional products or policy features, not to mention the positive environmental impact a company makes by offering a paperless billing solution."

Whether the driver behind insurers choosing to enable e-billing is “green,” efficiency, cost or a combination, it is happening. Forrester research shows the nearly four out of 10 new U.S. auto insurance customers choose paperless statements. That includes purchases through all channels including the Web, phone and agent. The number dramatically increased when the research company isolated Internet purchases (policies binded online). Approximately seven out of 10 U.S. adults who purchase auto insurance online select paperless statements.

Fiserv expects the numbers to grow for online banking, billing and payment because many consumers see them as value-added services.

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