Streamlined billing

Electronic bill payment solutions
allow businesses to trim costs while
improving efficiencies. By eliminating the need for customers to deliver or
mail paper items, payments enter the collection stream quicker and with less
effort than through traditional methods.

Electronic payment alternatives enable
bill payers to make payments at their
convenience 24 hours a day, seven days a
week through a variety of convenient
electronic options including debit cards,
major credit cards and electronic check.
Companies using an electronic bill payment solution can improve their record
keeping while saving time and costs.

“Electronic bill payment allows a company to automate the payment collection
and posting processes,” says Joy Gilmer,
senior vice president of treasury management for Comerica Bank’s Western
Market. “It reduces or eliminates exception items, therefore saving time in internal costs.”

Smart Business spoke with Gilmer
about electronic bill payment, how the
concept works and how companies can
benefit from the solution.

In what ways have banking solutions
advanced during the past several years?

In the past, accounts were settled with
cash and checks either on-site or by mail.
Banking solutions have advanced to
mobile solutions — transactions can be
conducted electronically, over the Web or
over the telephone line. With checks now
being intercepted and converted into
electronic form, the process and exchange can be conducted electronically.

How does the concept of electronic bill payment work?

Electronic bill payment allows companies to offer their bill payers an electronic payment alternative without making a
large investment in infrastructure and
staff. Payment options include making
payment via the Internet, interactive
voice response or a human contact center representative.

A company should first try to understand what its customers are asking for
based on customer comments, typically
through its existing sales and customer
service teams. It then sits down with its
bank respresentative and begins to form
a customized electronic bill payment
solution, which can include payment delivery channels, settlement choices, payment parameters and security controls.

What benefits does an electronic bill payment solution provide to business customers?

The electronic bill payment solution is
a value proposition for companies and
enables them to better serve their customers by providing additional payment
options, flexibility and convenience.
Customers are able to make their payments when and where it is convenient
for them to do so. A company is now
empowered to collect payment 24-7,
which accelerates the accounts receivable timeline and results in quicker
deposits of funds. It also automates the updating of the accounts receivable system, reduces fraud, eliminates audit concerns related to the storage of private
financial data of customers, eases
account reconciliation tasks and provides new customer service tools for
internal staff.

What kind of fraud protection and security
measures are incorporated into an electronic bill payment solution?

There are multiple fraud protection
security measures, which include the
number of days a payment can be made,
number of payments made in a day or
specified time frame and ZIP code validations. Companies can restrict their
customers and only allow them to pay via
a particular settlement option, such as a
credit card, particularly if the company
has already experienced returns for non-sufficient funds in electronic checks.
Also, card verification values can be set
up, which are similar to a security code
on the back of a credit card. In some
cases, a company may elect not to accept
an electronic payment by using a negative file, also known as a stop file. You
see this feature used a lot with mortgage
companies because in some cases
accepting a payment could cause legal
issues down the line.

How can electronic bill payment be branded
with a company’s own identity?

At Comerica, with our Easy Pay option,
we brand the solution with the client’s
own logo, look and feel. If the company
chooses the Internet-only solution, our
client needs to provide us with its current Internet site address and a file containing its logo so that our site will look
like the client’s. If the client cannot provide us with those items, we will work
with the company to build a site.

JOY GILMER is senior vice president of treasury management for Comerica Bank’s Western Market. Reach her at (714) 435-3931 or
[email protected].