For a long time, there wasn’t much variation in the billing experience, no matter who one happened to be. A bill came in the mail, a consumer wrote out a check, that consumer popped that check in the mail — rinse, repeat until all obligations were covered.
"It's all about conversations and interactions with customers in all sorts of channels."
But that is not the world we live in now. Bills are paid online. And statements? They may not come in the mail anymore either. Paperless bills arrive by email or alerts directing one to a statement online are now de rigueur. Which, notes AcceptEasy CEO Peter Kwakernaak, is why it is particularly important that consumers can click, pay and be on their way, no matter what channel in which they happen to be. It’s also the problem AcceptEasy set out to tackle. “We create payment requests in any shape or form from any channel issuing from all kinds of systems — CRM, ERP, credit management systems — so that our clients can access and use channels in ways they are not always used,” Kwakernaak said.
Founded as AcceptEmail almost a decade ago, the firm has rebranded to keep step with the number of channels it has grown to support on top of email, including text messages or messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook. AcceptEasy uses existing rails that customers have with providers and banks that, Kwakernaak said, make it easy to connect and pay any type of bill in any one of the online touch points with which consumers and billers want to interact.
"Soon we will be asking Siri, Alexa or Google to pay our bill for us."
Different Users, Different Uses
Email as the older and more established channel, Peter Kwakernaak noted, unsurprisingly still attracts the most traffic — and the oldest users. But, he said, those lines are blurring increasingly, as commerce itself is becoming more conversational. It isn’t about users wanting to use a channel so much as they want to be able to use a variety of them, and in sequence as they need them. He noted that getting consumers to come to them — particularly at billing time — has been a strategy of limited usefulness. Kwakernaak pointed to the abundance of the “My Portals” (My Verizon, myAT&T, etc); they do a great job as consumer outreach tools, but they are unable to get more than about 30 percent usage among their consumers. “The rest just aren’t interested enough to remember another password or download another app. They need to be approached in different channels, preferably channels they are already in and using daily.” It doesn’t make sense to keep creating new channels and portals, he explained, when consumer behavior clearly indicates that it isn’t what customers want: An experience that is seamless and digital now — and going forward, they are going to want more.
The Conversational Commerce Future
The shape of commerce is changing across the board, Kwakernaak noted, with the general observable trend highlighted across news platforms in recent months being toward transactions that look a lot more like conversations. “We are increasingly seeing customers interacting — at this point with bots — to ask some account questions before being moved on to a payment action, be it a bill or buying an item the customer had searched for.” And, he noted, AcceptEasy fully expects a world where those conversations will actually be out loud and with devices. Someday probably fairly soon we will be asking Siri, Alexa or Google to pay our electric bill for us. “A bill won’t look like a bill anymore in the next few years, and payments won’t look like payments. You aren’t going to shout your routing number across the room to a voice-activated assistant or try to look at a PDF of a bill within WhatsApp. That stuff is all handled and secured, but not what the customer has to deal with. They can just take the action or instruct a chatbot or AI to do the action for them.”
And, for the immediate future, Kwakernaak said AcceptEasy’s mission is to make sure that they are ready to make any and all of those transactions happen. That means, among other things, an aggressive international expansion plan and lots of integrations within their system with partners. That includes recently integrating PayWithMyBank to bring verifiedACH on board and working with the TIO Network to embed their technology into their systems. “We are also looking into expanding our work in data analytics and seeing how we can use the information from the behaviors we see to guide better offers for our partners. We can see what types of message consumers responded to and how they reacted.” The future, he said, is around connections — and helping retailers and consumers connect in places that they may never have connected before. AcceptEasy wants to build those connections and find the ones no one has thought about yet.