Browsing through Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat”, I came across a passage on Wal-Mart’s entry into the world of banking and financial services. The passage illustrates how a big chain retailer has positioned itself to compete in a flattened business world with a level playing field. In this case, Wal-Mart has added bill payment and other financial services to serve unbanked consumers, including millions of Hispanic households, who have no banking relationship and rely on alternative financial services. Large corporations and small companies alike recognize the limitless potential of creation and innovation through collaboration to meet consumers’ changing needs and expectations.
In the bill payment world, the ‘Customer is King’ mantra holds true, as sophisticated consumers value control and flexibility with the bill payment experience, particularly in tough economic times when they experience cash flow difficulty. Consumers prefer payment options that offer them more control and allow them to hold onto their money as long as possible. In particular, unbanked and under-banked consumers are more likely to make expedited payments towards recurring bills such as wireless, utility and cable. Meanwhile, an increasing number of businesses have embraced a multi-channel bill payment strategy to meet their customers’ needs and expectations for financial flexibility.
The multi-channel bill payment strategy empowers consumers with last minute payment options (24/7), cash flow management, and avoidance of service disruptions and costly reconnection fees. Customers benefit from convenient access to payment services in either English or Spanish and avoid long lines. The multi-channel bill payment strategy has opened the gateway to financial freedom for millions of low income, new immigrant and ethnic households. In addition, consumers across economic spectrums now have the flexibility to pay their bills through multiple access points.
My firm, TIO Networks, has teamed with some of North America’s largest bill issuers, including carriers, utilities and many others, to offer consumers access to real-time bill payment services at over 21,000 access points, including self-serve kiosks, POS/clerk-assisted locations, and smart phones. This allows customers to look up their account balances, pay their bills with cash, and receive confirmation of their payments in real time.
One can argue that the bill payment networks have flattened their segment of the payment world and created equality for banked and unbanked consumers in regards to daily financial transactions.