Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP)
The ability to accurately produce bills and confirmation notices, and collect payments expeditiously is fundamental to corporate success. These applications often provide the most frequent contact that many companies have with its customers. Documents of this type are normally designed for customer convenience and serve as a primary vehicle for marketing, cross selling and overall brand reinforcement. Bill production is much more than a back-office function; it is a strategic differentiator in highly competitive markets.
Interfile’s core e-services offering, Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP or eFiling), is based on technology and processes proven over 19 years and offers clients superbly enhanced revenue collection and customer interaction. Unlike third party collection agencies or payment service providers, Interfile offers a complete system with real time payment directly into the Billers bank account – no holding accounts, no delays and no reconciliation errors.
In its simplest form, Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment is the process of delivering a bill from the originator (the biller) to the receiver (the customer) and processing the payment of that bill via electronic means. EBPP provides an end-to-end electronic transaction. It improves customer service dramatically and builds customer loyalty, while providing cost savings and revenue enhancement opportunities. .
Many large billers have realised the benefits of issuing bills electronically but these are static bills that do not allow for payment of the bill or interaction with the customer. Banks and third party payment service providers offer payment services but these lack account reconciliation, customer validation, authentication and other critical factors required to deliver the benefits of EBPP. A successful EBPP offering requires a co-operative effort between financial institutions and service providers and the participation of a number of roles. It is much more than issuing and paying a bill, realising the benefits needs a solid understanding of both biller and customer requirements and behaviours.
South Africa’s most well known EPBB offering is SARS e-Filing, designed, developed and implemented by Interfile. SARS have not only received the benefits of reduced debtors days and reconciled accounts, but is recognised today as a customer focused entity. As a biller they have realised accurate customer data, reduced queries, lowered costs, and improved processes.
The expansion of e-Filing into departments, such as UIF, and Municipalities such as the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, is also adding to the improvements in revenue collection and ability to deliver better services.
EBPP is recognised as a key component of improved customer service. Self-service and convenience are central to EBPP. Mobile and Web services allow customers to view and pay bills at their convenience and offer greater customer service related functions than a printed statement. A high percentage of support costs are billing related, one of the key areas to reduce costs. In the EBPP world customers are able to obtain accounts, statements, proof of payment, and history without the need to contact a support centre.
Reconciliation services provide benefits for both biller and customer. Customers benefit from the receipt of immediate proof of payment from the biller and centralised history of bill and associated payment. Integration with the core systems of the biller for electronic account reconciliation is of paramount importance to billers and also leads to simplified dispute resolution. Cost savings in back office financial staff and processes is achieved and fewer customer disputes add to improved service.
Improved cash flow as a result of better data analysis and reduced debtors days provides additional value to the biller. Customers receive their bills earlier than in a postal world, offering them the ability to better manage their cash flow and billers get paid earlier – on average two weeks earlier than via other methods.
Large billers need a company like Interfile as they require the ability to add services and business processes around the basic function of presentment and payment. For example a municipality offering must include items such as registration and authentication services, account applications, clearance certificate processing, cut off management, account reconciliation, multiple user and account profiles, dispute resolution, integration into core systems, data cleansing, workflow and notification services.
How Interfile EBPP adds real value to your enterpriseBusiness has much to gain from Interfile EBPP, because it is not only an added value means of attracting and retaining customers, and because it can help generate additional revenues from added value services.
The benefit of EBPP lies not in the payment but in the value add that encapsulates the process. The monthly bill is one of the few vehicles that guarantee regular, repetitive, interactive communication with customers, making it an invaluable tool for client acquisition and retention.
EBPP strengthens the relationship between the business/biller and the customer through the creation of additional value to the customer, and becomes a strong tool in the retention of customers. The value to business includes savings in the direct cost of printing, collating and postage of paper bills and the improvement of debtor’s days. However, the real value lies in the areas of customer relationship/engagement management and account reconciliation. This translates to two way communication where the business can utilise EBPP as an opportunity for existing customers to further interact and engage with the Bill originator.
- EBPP is now recognised as a key component, and very often driver, of improved customer service. Self-service and convenience are central to EBPP. On-line or Web services allow customers to view and pay bills at their convenience and offers greater customer service related functions than a printed statement. Customers can view their history of statements and associated payments, query line items on a bill, and engage with the business.
- EBPP offers business the ability to enhance customer loyalty by providing optimised services for high value or vulnerable clients. Customised billing formats and languages are easily achieved, preferential customer services through electronic or traditional voice channels becomes a reality, and data modelling allows for targeted marketing and better understanding of one’s customer.
- Reconciliation services provide benefits for both business, and customer. Customers benefit from the receipt of immediate proof of payment from the business and centralised history of bills and associated payment. Dispute resolution is simplified for both biller and customer. Interfile’s ability to provide solutions that seamlessly integrate with the core systems of the biller for electronic account reconciliation is of paramount importance to business. The referencing and account reconciliation that is unique to Interfile also adds value as consumers can pay multiple accounts via a single payment that is reconciled for the biller. Cost savings in back office financial staff and processes is achieved and fewer customer disputes add to improved customer service and loyalty.
Savings in Support Costs
- A high percentage of support costs are billing related. Improved account reconciliation and customer self-service significantly reduce these costs. Customers are able to obtain accounts, statements, proof of payment, and history without the need to contact a support centre. Electronic dispute resolution mechanisms further reduce the support burden.
- Each bill provides a one-to-one marketing opportunity. Electronic statements are more engaging than their paper based counterparts and provides an opportunity for targeted messaging. Cross sell and up sell campaigns are easily incorporated and the effectiveness thereof is more precise and easier to analyse. Bill presentment is one of the few tools that forces customers to visit your “shop” on a regular basis.
- Improved cashflow as a result of better data analysis and reduced debtors days provides additional value to the biller. Customers receive their bills earlier than in a postage world, offering them the ability to better manage their cashflow – and they can pay their bills via their channel of choice 24 hours a day. This can be further enhanced through on line tools or the integration into personal money management products.
- Biller and customer both benefit from the electronic process. Electronic bills are far easier to incorporate into workflow processes with large customers now able to improve management and authorisation of multiple bills, whilst billers' presentment, reconciliation and dispute process costs are substantially reduced.
Fast and cost-effective implementation
- Because existing Interfile EBPP technology plugs into client systems, the cost of customisation can be as low as 10% of the cost compared to developing a new system while installation takes a fraction of the time. Operational running costs are also substantially lower than general market prices.
A reputation you can rely on
- Recognised by Gartner, local and international innovation awards and PASA (Payments Association of South Africa) approval are just some of our accolades. Interfile is also contracted by SITA and partners with the GSSC to provide eGovernment services to all levels of Government. Our 15 year plus relationship with the major banks has enabled Interfile to process in excess of R600b worth of reconciled transactions.
Improved management information
- By utilising Interfile’s EBPP system, your customer details, transaction and correspondence records will be vastly more accurate, accessible and auditable.
How Interfile EBPP benefits your customers
The service is completely free of charge
- Interfile’s customer facing applications are completely free of charge with no requirements for specialised software or skills.
- EBPP allows for 24/7/365 payment as well as a variety of payment channels.
Reducing the risk of default/service termination
- The electronic reminder service that is inherent in Interfile EBPP means the risk of defaulting or having a service terminated through forgetting to pay a statement is considerably reduced.
Savings in Support Costs
- A high percentage of support costs are billing related. Improved account reconciliation and customer self-service significantly reduces these costs. Customers are able to obtain accounts, statements, proof of payment, and history without the need to contact a support centre. Electronic dispute resolution mechanisms further reduce the support burden.
History of Bills and Payments
- Every statement and payment is stored in history for future reference.
Proof of Payment
- Customers receive immediate proof of payment for each payment transaction.
Paperless and instantaneous communication between customer and client
- Every EBPP statement is interactive and allows customers to dispute or query the bill via our integrated dispute resolution service.
- Built in workflow processes together with varying levels of user rights provides added functionality and governance. For example: one user can authorise the invoice whilst another authorises payment.
- Paying via EBPP is completely secure. Confirmation for each payment is immediate, while every communication – particularly in terms of a disputed bill – is logged.
Real functionality in a complete package
Three crucial aspects of eFiling are worth noting:
- Existing Interfile eFiling technology plugs directly into a client’s accounting system,meaning that the cost of installation and customisation can be as low as 10% of the cost compared to developing a new system while installation takes a fraction of the time.
- Interfile e-Filing is a fully developed and all-embracive solution that has been thoroughly proven by users such as South African Revenue Service and the Unemployment Insurance fund.
- e-Filing is about more than just expediting timeous payment and thus dramatically boosting cash flow. It is also about radically improving customer relationships.
The diagram on the right illustrates just some of the functional aspects of the system.
Interfile goes to great lengths to protect the confidentiality of third party information and ensure that only authorised parties are able to submit and process information. All Interfile personnel have been thoroughly screened and strictly adhere to the provisions of various confidentiality and privacy legislation.
All transmissions are encrypted and the data can only be decrypted by authorised personnel. Prior to any information being accepted for processing, it has to meet strict identification standards and specifications. To prevent unauthorised access to any data, all transmissions received and transmitted by the portal are captured in an auditable log file.
Information sent and received is encrypted using a sophisticated and robust encryption routine while commercial banks linked to the EBPP system provide the encryption for the electronic payments processed by them.
2. REGISTRATION AND AUTHENTICATION
The system provides for detailed user and company registration for the service with authentication of details in accordance with defined business rules. This is supported by secure email, fax, SMS and a dedicated call centre.
This process ensures that there are no duplicates, users are validated and ensures a high level of control over the utilisation of the service/portal. In so doing we address the client’s concern of ensuring that both internal staff as well as users are authenticated, have valid rights to process data, and all transactions are logged against the specific user for audit purposes.
Interfile links directly with the banks and enables the company to offer various payment solutions to their clients. The solutions in place have been built, in conjunction with the Banks, over a period of 5 years and provide a fool proof payment gateway and reconciliation service. The core reason behind this is that all payment referencing and instructions are generated, tracked and reconciled within the Portal. The Banks act only on a system instruction utilising our reference and disallowing any manual changes by the client. There is no other payment system that offers masked bank accounts, integrated reconciliation services and third party based referencing control.
Different payment options and aspects facilitated by Interfile EBPP are:
- Payment transactions are initiated through the transactional engine and presented to the banking product as bill presentation - payment request. Only once the user has logged into the banking product and authorised the payment request is this transaction regarded as an effective payment. Credit Push transactions are irrevocable. In order for the client to use this payment method, bank accounts have to be opened with these financial institutions. The system is fully integrated with the 4 major banks. All funds that have been paid into one of these bank accounts will be swept at night into a main bank account.
Instructed Debit Pull
- Payment transactions are initiated through the transaction engine and authorised for each transaction. The transaction is only assumed to be successful after user authorisation and a confirmation receipt from the Bank. This payment mechanism utilises the inter-banking facility, ACB that involves the initiation of payment instructions from the originating bank to the client’s bank.
Functionality to allow bill presentment and payment on mobile (cell phone) banking platforms is now a reality.
Interfile’s mobile applications extend to specific business services allowing customers to be billed, and those bills paid.
- Interfile assists clients to set up either supported or self-assist kiosks for those users without Internet access, at locations identified by the client.
Accuracy of allocation of payments
- Interfile’s transactional engine facilitates accuracy by ensuring real time or daily reconciliation of all payments made electronically with the specific statement(s). The current EBPP solutions in place have been built in conjunction with the major Banks and provide a secure payment gateway and reconciliation service. The core reason behind this is that all payment referencing and instructions are generated, tracked and reconciled within the Portal back to bill.
- This function will allow the customers the opportunity to allocate their payment to the different services and or make a partial payment on an account.
The facility to combine multiple accounts into a single payment
- A payment that has been made from one bank account can be allocated to several accounts within the billing system.
4. ONLINE SUBMISSION OF FORMS, INVOICES AND STATEMENTS
Users are able to complete and submit electronic forms via the Internet. Forms are presented in a pre-populated format, which ensures that not only is the referencing information correct but also assists the user for faster completion. Calculations on the forms, where required, are done electronically by the system thereby removing errors associated with manual calculations.
You are thus able to present either free format or customised forms through the Portal to ensure standardisation. Users, both internal and external to the client, are able to either complete forms and applications online, download from the portal to complete offline and then submit, or receive an editable document via secure email for completion and submission. This ensures that users are free to choose their preferred manner of interaction.
All forms, invoices and statements are designed and presented in a recognisable-to-the-customer format so that interaction with the client is not foreign to the customer utilising the site.
5. ABILITY TO WORK OFFLINE
Addressing the available bandwidth and electricity supply challenges faced by South Africa, Interfile designed a service whereby the user can connect to the internet, download the needed forms, save it to disk and complete it offline at a later stage. This completed form can then be submitted and synchronised to the EBPP system when the user connects to the internet again.
An example of this “Air Product” service in use is the SARS e@syfile suite of products.
6. NOTIFICATION TOOL
This service, fully integrated with the system, allows for users to make use of both Workflow and Notification tools through either a simple workflow wizard or tick box. Notifications may be sent to any email address, cell phone number or facsimile number. Recommended notifications include notifying users of successful activation for service, confirmation of document completion or submission, confirmation or request to make payment and notification of certificate availability. This service vastly improves the service levels to users and offers a way to substantially improve the negative perceptions that many people have of government offerings.
7. COMPLETE HISTORY
The system maintains a copy of all the information, applications, forms and payments with a minimum of 12 months history immediately available per user. For information older than 12 months, a request can be sent to Interfile who will retrieve this from the archives. Based on business requirements identified during the business analysis phase, this can be customised to the client’s specifications.
In order to assist the client and its users, history of all payments, form submissions, invoices, and communications through the Portal is maintained. Every single transaction is auditable and traceable to ensure integrity and manage associated risk.
8. SECURE E-MAIL
A secure facility to send and receive email is available through the Interfile Portal. Users are able to receive communications via email in a secure format.
Interfile maintains a full administration system catering for queries, user support and control, activations and de-activations, password resets, etc. The system is web based and therefore, dependent on customer requirements, An extension of this system or a separate administration system can easily be catered for.
11. BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
Interfile provides both monthly and weekly reports on all aspects of the service. The reports can be customised to suit the needs of the client. The system also provides detailed reports on transactions, customer utilisation, and detailed management statistics.
"If it isn’t Interfile EBPP it probably isn’t true EBPP"