Collector - September 2020 - 12

BESTPRACTICES

How Consumer-Friendly
is Your Payment Portal?
Make it as easy as possible for people to make payments online.
By Tim Dressen

T

he COVID-19 pandemic has
amplified consumers' reliance on
online transactions. Giving people
easy methods to interact with businesses
whenever they choose, from any location
and using whatever connected device they
prefer, is no longer a nice, optional feature.
It's expected.
Consumers receiving a bill-whether
from utility companies, health care providers
or collection agencies-want and expect the
ability to easily pay it online. Companies
that fail to provide online payment options
risk having their bills fall to the bottom
of consumers' priorities. However, simply
having a payment portal is not sufficient. If it
isn't easy to access, flexible and user-friendly,
potential payors may become frustrated and
delay making payments.

CONSIDERATIONS
Recognizing that a 75% fail rate on its
payment portal was problematic, Nationwide
Credit Corp. in Alexandria, Virginia,
upgraded its payment portal in January 2020.
"Our payment portal was antiquated," said
David Speed, Nationwide's chief operating
officer. "It was hard for someone to be able to
do much of anything. Even the information
needed to log in was difficult. Consumers
had to enter a 22-digit number to get into
it. If they got one digit wrong, they'd get
frustrated and leave the site."
Providing easy access is the first step in
helping people to pay online. Keep account
numbers or access codes short and consider
offering alternative login options that are
easier for users to remember, such as the last
four digits of their Social Security number.
Once a consumer has successfully
logged into the portal, their understanding
of payment options and how to submit

12

payments depends on simple, easy-to-follow
instructions. Include only what's necessary
and keep information requests simple.
Phrasing requests as questions may be useful.
Most consumers will be hesitant to
provide payment information without
reassurance your site is secure. Including
or linking to basic information about site
security and highlighting that the portal uses
encryption technology to protect sensitive
data lets users know you're taking steps to
keep their information safe.
Flexibility is another essential feature.
Give consumers the ability to use their
preferred payment method-credit card,
debit card, checking account ACH or
Health Savings Account. Also, provide
multiple payment options. In addition
to offering the ability to submit the
minimum expected payment or payment
in full, offer a series of options or the
ability to designate any amount above the
expected minimum.
"We wanted to make it easier for
consumers to choose a payment option other
than a single amount," Speed said. "Now that
we offer that, we want to more fully address
the needs of the new generation, who don't
really want to talk to us. That's where we'll
take it next, making the payment portal
interaction more of a negotiation process."
Keep in mind that not every consumer
will access your portal in the same manner.
The functionality should be consistent,
whether they are visiting from a computer, a
smartphone or a tablet.
"My best advice is to make your site as
mobile and customer-friendly as possible,"
said Debbie Frank, CEO of Credit Bureau
Services in Cape Girardeau, Missouri,
which upgraded its payment portal as part
of an overall collection software transition

that began last fall. "Making the whole
online process simple and mobile-friendly
has been a win for us. They can speak to
our chatbot, Alex, as if they are talking to
an agent."
Many of Credit Bureau Services' site
changes were designed to not only stay
current but also to keep up with differing
needs and expectations across various
consumer demographics.
"People in their 20s are saying they don't
want to talk to an agent," Frank said. "Those
45 and under prefer using the online payment
portal, while [those] 50 and above like text
message reminders but are still hesitant to
go online and provide payment information.
They still call or drop off payment."

CHALLENGES
As with any major process change, payment
portal upgrades come with potential
pitfalls. Speed recommends working with
payment processors early in the transition
to ensure their systems can work with your
new site.
"Getting some of our payment processors
up and running so they were able to
receive information from the process was

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Collector - September 2020

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