By Carro Ford "The impact of EBPP is significant across the board, but perhaps greatest in relationships in high-volume invoice delivery and receipt situations." -- Gregory T. Church, vice president of ACOM Solutions November 8, 2004 -- It's not setting any records, but expansion of electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) continues to grow. Leading adopters includetelco, credit card, banking, and healthcare sectors. These markets share characteristics that make EBPP an increasingly important factor in their business success: Competitive environment that demands customer service excellence High rates of customer churn Complex, inefficient paper-based billing and payment High administrative costs High volume of monthly transactions According to a TowerGroup report, leading factors influencing a company's initial decision to offer EBPP are cost reduction (62 percent), customer demand (31 percent), automation (27 percent), and customer satisfaction (23 percent). When EBPP works as it should, it can streamline processes, cut invoicing and payment costs, and reduce the cycle time of reconciling invoice disputes and exceptions and tracking payments. According to Chris Gardner, vice president of products and marketing at edocs.com, EBPP also gives companies a more cost-effective way to respond to such customer service challenges as: Increasing demands for customer service due to complex products and services Increasing call center volumes at $5 plus per call A high percentage (+50 percent) of customer service calls are account-related Broad Impact To deploy a good EBPP system and reap the ROI it promises, many companies are turning to service providers who have the experience and technology. "The impact of EBPP is significant across the board, but perhaps greatest in relationships in high-volume invoice delivery and receipt situations, since days sales outstanding decreases; cash flow accelerates; and security, economy, efficiency and accuracy improve on both ends of the process. Expenditures for tracing lost and delayed invoices drop dramatically, eliminating a major drain on back office staff resources," notes Gregory T. Church, vice president of ACOM Solutions. The period within which firms expect to achieve ROI from their EBPP investments ranges from one to seven years and averages 2.7 years, according to the TowerGroup. Companies attaining an ROI have done so in an average of 2.1 years. To deploy a good EBPP system and reap the ROI it promises, many companies are turning to service providers who have the experience and technology. Service Providers Play Important Role "Most RFPs for business services today include online billing, payment and customer self-service capabilities. It's becoming a feature service providers must offer to be competitive," --Chris Gardner, edocs.com Service bureaus are a major force behind much of the successful EBPP delivery from banks, utilities, insurers and other billers. "Most RFPs for business services today include online billing, payment and customer self-service capabilities. It's becoming a feature service providers must offer to be competitive," declares Gardner. TowerGroup reports that the key features billers evaluate in the selection of an EBPP vendor are robust functionality (54 percent), proven track record (38 percent), and installations and industry experience (23 percent). "Billing organizations that outsource EBPP are typically smaller and lack the budget or internal resources to manage an application. CheckFree provides this capability internally, acting as a customer of its own technology, and we also provide outsourcing services for billers," says CheckFree spokesperson, David Fontaine. "Providers have the same expectations as any other developer or marketer, that their solution will be instrumental in changing the way the back office operates and be one of the winners," says Church. "Customers expect that solutions will streamline their operations, improve their accuracy, increase security, cut their costs, and improve their cash flow." The big Atlanta service bureau DATAMATX is helping customers achieve these goals through its own EBPP technology. An EBPP Track Record " Having provided statement presentment capabilities for our customers for several years has allowed DATAMATX to develop a customized EBPP offering. This internally developed solution lets us customize the feature sets and extend additional flexibility to our customers, unlike what a purchased solution would have allowed us to do," explains. Harry P. Stephens, president and CEO of DATAMATX, Inc., "The ability to integrate ESP and EBPP with other workflow and processing systems is critical. Otherwise, companies are just opening themselves up for problems." -- Harry Stephens, DATAMATX, Inc. "Although we have developed our own systems for providing these services to our customers, it goes much deeper than that," he adds. "The ability to integrate ESP (Electronic Statement Presentment) and EBPP software and systems with other workflow and processing systems used by an enterprise is critical. Without the ability to easily integrate systems and a good toolset for allowing this, companies are just opening themselves up for problems. "We provide all customers the ability to view documents via the web for a period of time at no cost," says Stephens. "This service not only gives the customer a sense of security regarding the hosting of their sensitive data, but also provokes thought for extending presentment or payment capability options to their end customers. Additionally, we have had some success by offering low cost of entry solutions to help subsidize the high costs sometimes associated with EBPP start ups." When it comes to EBPP, service bureaus like DATAMATX are making sure the "E" also stands for easy, increasing the odds that more billers and their end customers will adopt the technology.