Q:What are some effective ways to market paperless billing in terms of timing, behavioral tactics, and bundling with related offerings?

A:Behavior-change themes should be integrated into any paperless billing marketing strategy. The E Source report There’s Still Room for Growth in Your Paperless Billing Program contains a lot of helpful information on this topic and notes that a common behavioral barrier to enrolling in paperless billing is simply fear of forgetting to pay a bill:

Market research by at least three utilities, including BC Hydro, Entergy, and Union Gas, indicates that a common reason customers cite for not switching to paperless billing is that their paper bills serve as a reminder to pay. Bill notifications (via text or email) can remove that perceived barrier. BC Hydro’s research found that adding bill reminders via email with the bill amount due and due date reduced customers’ uneasiness around letting go of their hard-copy bills.

We recommend marketing billing alerts and notifications with your paperless billing advertisements. Salt River Project, for example, took a simple approach to this (figure 1).

Figure 1: Marketing notifications with paperless billing

Marketing notifications with paperless billing

The contact center can also be a great avenue through which you can boost participation in paperless billing. In our report we note:

During complaint calls, outages, and other high-call-volume periods, the utility avoids advertising self-service programs such as e-billing. But during interactions such as payment-related calls and phone requests to start new service, utilities can introduce paperless billing options with some success. Start-service is an opportune moment in the customer journey to promote paperless billing because new customers are interested in the value their new utility can provide. They’re also more open to changing their habits. BC Hydro has been using start-service calls to promote paperless billing since 2011 and has seen sustained success of over 40 percent conversion rates. Quintero suggests that after utilities get their contact center on board with a paperless billing promotional plan, they use internal contests to encourage call center agents to compete for e-billing “sales.” This can be an effective way to boost enrollment while keeping agents engaged.

Marketing autopay and level pay

Marketing additional online payment offerings or services should complement paperless billing marketing efforts. Autopay and level pay are examples of ways to alleviate customers’ hesitations for enrolling in paperless billing. One utility program, for example, provides customers with a variety of online payment options to make paperless billing more attractive, as detailed in our report:

Otter Tail Power Co.’s e-bill program, called ePay, goes beyond turning off the paper bill by including the options to choose a due date and make free automatic payments. The program also features SMS and email bill reminders. By bundling these common billing and payment offerings, the message is clear to customers that turning off their paper bills comes with an easier billing and payment experience. To strengthen the value proposition, consider making certain billing and payment features—such as text alerts—only available to paperless billing customers as a way to motivate the changeover.

Seasonal marketing

Any time is a good time to market paperless billing. We aren’t aware of a time of year when it’s more effective to market this offering than other times. What we’ve seen, however, are utilities playing on cultural nuances during seasons, holidays, and sporting events to market paperless billing (figure 2).

Figure 2: Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Cultural marketing of paperless billing

Additional resources

For information on which customer segments have the highest likelihood of participating in paperless billing programs, see the E Source report How to Market Online Services to Boost Residential Web Engagement. The report provides index scores for The Nielsen Company’s 66 PRIZM premier customer segments regarding their likelihood to receive bills via email and to set up alerts.

Contributing Authors

Director, Portfolio and New Product Strategy

Luke Currin and his team strive to understand utilities’ needs to improve E Source’s demand-side management, distributed energy...