Arizona's largest electricity utility, APS, serves more than 1.1 million customers in 11 of the state's 15 counties, but many of those customers are under- or unbanked. In 2005, the company set out to find a better way reach those consumers who often paid in cash and relied on last-minute bill-payment services to manage cash flow and avoid service disconnection and late fees.
Although APS already had a small kiosk network in place, it wanted to improve that system and specifically hoped to:
- Improve customer satisfaction.
- Replace existing kiosk program with an alternative bill-payment solution.
- Increase the number of self-serve automated payment and processing locations.
- Manage costs.
On the customer side, APS wanted to provide:
- Real time payment processing and confirmation.
- A way for people to avoid long lineups and wait times in APS local offices.
- Convenient 24x7 access to bill-pay services in English and Spanish.
- Better management of personal finances.
APS entered into a partnership with TIO Networks in 2005 to deploy kiosks inside 150 Circle K stores. That number is now at about 360 locations across Circle K, ExxonMobil, Albertsons, and Best Buy stores in the Phoenix area. Cash preferred APS customers can now access their personal account balance and make secure and convenient payments on their accounts, 24-hours-a-day, by inserting the cash directly into kiosks' cash acceptors. Customers pay a $2-convenience fee per transaction.
Transactions are securely completed in English or Spanish, and all payments are immediately posted to the customers' accounts, said Behshad Hastibakhsh, senior director of Public Relations for TIO.
Since the initial deployment, APS has executed numerous marketing campaigns in partnership with TIO and c-store partners to promote their bill payment program using website posting, call center referrals, posters and handouts at the local APS offices, Hastibakhsh said.
About 16,000 APS customers per month have made cash payments through kiosks at convenience stores, grocery, and other retail locations, according to Dana Ramirez APS customer service manager.
"This result exceeds the original goal of redirecting 7,500 customers per month from APS offices to convenience store kiosks. APS customers have expressed their satisfaction with the program's expansion and convenient bill payment opportunities," Ramirez said.
The kiosks have also helped APS to alleviate long lineups and counter pressure, and empowered customer service representatives to focus on resolving complex customer service related issues and/or generating additional revenue. Automation has also reduced operational risks and improved reconciliation and auditing.
Read more about bill-payment kiosks.