As mobile payments move mainstream so, too, are bill payments. COVID-19 accelerated that trend and intensified the need for companies to expand their remote bill payment options to meet customers’ evolving demands. Modern bill payment platforms can support businesses in reaching that goal by matching the seamless user experience customers expect with the flexibility, security and reliability businesses need.
PayNearMe develops technology to help businesses and government agencies manage customer relationships around recurring bill payments. The cloud-based payments platform enables consumers to pay their bills whenever, wherever, and however they want, using any device and any form of tender, including cards, Apple and Google Pay, and even cash. Automated tools mitigate risk and engage customers to enable fast, secure payments, creating a better bill pay experience for both billers and their customers.
CEO Danny Shader founded PayNearMe in 2009. His passion is creating payment technologies that deliver a superior customer experience and eliminate pain points. He attributes his success to letting client feedback drive product development and recruiting and retaining Silicon Valley’s best and brightest to innovate solutions.
What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?
Most companies in the segments we serve – billers – haven’t been able to do anything with the innovation going on around them. They simply lack the resources required to build great payment experiences based on these innovations to improve payment rates and reduce customer service costs.
We’re solving that problem by providing cloud-based payment experience management that doesn’t require our customers to spend a lot or deploy their valuable and limited development resources.
We’ve evolved from a cash payment network that transformed walk-up bill payment to a complete system that billers use to collect every form of payment through every possible channel, from mobile to web to IVR, and beyond.
When people saw our cash transaction network for the first time, we had to scoop their jaws off the floor. It was the first of its kind and remains unique in the industry because it allows consumers to pay their bills with cash in real-time in the checkout line of convenient, local retailers.
Since then, we’ve continued to innovate and expand the platform to meet the goal of enabling any tender of electronic payment using any payment channel. Our clients enjoy the convenience and ease of being able to manage and reconcile all payment tenders in one place.
How has this changed over the past few years?
Although e-commerce payments have continued to innovate and push consumer expectations over the last decade, bill pay has remained fairly stagnant. COVID-19 fueled a zero-to-60 acceleration of electronic bill payment. Consumers are doing everything they can to social distance, and standing in line at banks or loan offices makes that challenging. At the same time, they are growing more comfortable with their personal devices. So enabling customers to pay their bills remotely on their phones is a trend that is quickly gaining traction.
Businesses that want to take advantage of remote bill pay need technology that is reliable and user-friendly, and most don’t have the time or developers required to create systems themselves on top of APIs like Stripe or Braintree. We take this burden off their shoulders by continually innovating to provide businesses with a complete system that enables their customers to pay their bills remotely with any form of payment through any channel they desire.
Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?
Being a Silicon Valley-based company certainly helps foster an openness to change. Our staff is full of engineers and executives who worked for Microsoft and Apple. Most of us have been living and breathing change and innovation for our entire careers, so innovation is built into the company’s DNA. We have people with expertise in compliance and others who know how to innovate, and we all work together to build great products for our clients.
Additionally, we’ve benefitted from exceptional retention, which is highly unusual in the fintech sector. A large number of PayNearMe employees have been with the company from its earliest days, and that means they know the core code of the technology well and can adapt it quickly as our clients’ requirements change. We’re nimble and can develop, test and launch new product features extremely quickly, which has been especially beneficial with the accelerated pace of change in fintech.
What fintech ideas have been implemented in PayNearMe?
In a nutshell, PayNearMe has brought fintech to bill payment. fintech has always been driven by innovation, but bill payment has traditionally been ignored, not because billers didn’t want to improve collections and reduce customer service costs by improving their payment experiences, but because all but the largest billers lack the resources to create first-class experiences for their customers. By taking a customer-centric, technology-first approach, we’ve helped our clients improve payment reliability, reduce customer service and reconciliation costs, and boost customer satisfaction. Our platform is incredibly convenient for both merchants and their customers.
We also take the fintech approach of developing our own products from the ground up, rather than cobbling together a patchwork of acquired technologies. The PayNearMe customer interfaces, business logic, controls behind different tender types, our proprietary cash network, the reconciliation model, the report generator – everything has been designed and built by us to work seamlessly.
What benefits have these brought?
Our customer-centric, technology-first approach has allowed us to be very responsive to both our clients and their customers, and we prefer to act as a partner rather than simply a vendor. In fact, most of our best ideas are derived from client suggestions. We talk with our clients about their business needs and concerns, assess market trends, and then develop new product features that address specific those needs with the least amount of disruption to workflows.
For instance, our clients can use business rules and custom fields to address typical risk management concerns. Setting these rules up does not require any coding, which means they can be adapted and configured on the fly. This unique approach allows every client to customise their instance of PayNearMe without IT support.
Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?
Alternative bill payment methods will continue to evolve. We are seeing increasing interest and adoption of digital wallets from our clients, and as P2P channels like Venmo, Amazon Pay and PayPal grow in consumer usage there will be a demand for offering them for bill payment. Consumers store money in those applications that could be applied toward their bills, and companies who ignore those new payment methods will lose out.
The other challenge for businesses is customer relationships. Most of our clients have one touchpoint with their customers: monthly bill payments. A complicated, difficult or stressful bill payment experience is no longer acceptable since it’s often the only time customers interact with their billers
Businesses and government agencies must focus on improving their bill payment experience to increase collections and reduce costs. They need to offer customers the payment options they want and break the bill payment process into easy, bite-size tasks that make paying bills easy and convenient. When they do, customers will make their payments successfully every time and walk away feeling satisfied and confident, without making expensive calls to customer service agents.
Can these challenges be aided by fintech?
fintech can address these challenges. At PayNearMe, we’re continually adding depth and building new capabilities. As new channels and payment types evolve and grow in consumer usage, we will add them into our platform capabilities.
fintech also can minimise complexity and frustration in the bill payment process. For instance, embedding a pre-authenticated payment link in a text or email reminder or printing a QR code on a paper statement allows the customer to go straight to the “How do you want to pay” screen, bypassing the need to register or sign in. That’s the kind of simplicity that transforms a recurring bad experience to a recurring good one, and it pays off through successful, on-time payment and reduced customer service costs.
Businesses know what they need to do to remain profitable and serve their customers well. What many lack is the ability to do so. In addition to providing this capability, we like to think we also serve end-users (i.e., all of us) by making bill payment easy and convenient. Who wouldn’t want that? That’s where fintech-forward bill payment can step in and succeed.