If you’re the financial manager at a utility company and are looking for an easier way to manage collections and disbursements, you might be looking to use APIs to collect utility bill payments from your end-customers. You might be facing these issues:
An accounts receivable system that uses multiple forms of payment, which makes reconciliation difficult.
A complex array of third-party payment providers with different clearing times and practices, which require manually putting information into ERP or CRM systems.
Separate departments for billing and payments, with relatively high overhead costs.
Here at Zai, we developed our suite of APIs with utility bill payments in mind across a wide range of utility businesses that need to collect payments regularly. Here, we'll outline the key points of how our solution can help you resolve these issues. We’ll cover:
Are you looking to use an API for utility bill payments? Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you.
The challenges of managing utility payments without an API
As any financial manager knows, one of the main hassles of managing billing for a utility provider is reconciling different payment systems that each have their own processing requirements and clearance times.
Credit and debit cards are the most common payment option for utility customers, but they can take one or two days to clear. BPAY and direct debits can take longer, up to four days. Information from each bank needs to be input through files daily. Wouldn't it be much better to simplify all that through one system?
Reconciling payables and receivables is complicated
When payables and receivables don’t reconcile automatically, it can increase the delays and complications around cash flow. With more payment methods on the market, reconciliation becomes even more complicated.
As a utility bill provider, however, you want to be offering several payment methods to make payments as seamless as possible for your customer to pay you in their preferred payment method. This means your customers are more likely to pay on time when prompted, instead of putting it off or struggling with payment methods they normally don’t use. Offering your customers’ preferred means of payment will also make your account receivables a lot easier with less late payments to chase after.
It’s hard to combine all payment methods with your ERP system
Working with multiple payment methods also makes it harder to reconcile on your ERP or CRM system. This can translate into problems with customer service, such as delays in onboarding new clients because of the delay in confirming the first payment to clear. Or having a payment-pending problem because it takes days for a payment to settle.
Off-the-shelf solutions can support multiple payment methods, but you might struggle to find one provider that can deliver all methods (for example, very few providers offer PayTo). These providers might not be based in Australia and therefore don't provide timely support or have Australian-specific bill payment services, such as BPAY.
How Zai's API solves utility bill payment challenges
With an API, you’ll have a single system that combines all types of payment methods, both payin and payout. This brings all financial management under a single roof, simplifying the reconciliation process and reducing overhead costs.
How our API works
Some utility providers may need to manually match a batch of files with a list of received payments to reconcile them. This can lead to transcription errors between different formats, which can cause increased costs, delays, and human error.
Zai's RESTful APIs allow utility billers to accept all types of electronic payment methods through just one integration. When an end-customer uses any of the available payment systems, such as a card or a bank transfer using PayID, the API automatically updates the utility's system via webhooks, sending an instant notification when a bill payment comes through. By using Zai as your payment provider, you can then set up customised workflows that determine what to do with a payment as soon as you receive it.
Reduce your reconciliation time by managing collections and disbursements under one system
An API allows the software of the payment system, such as a credit card company, to talk directly to your records, such as a CRM. That means the information is transmitted automatically, reducing the chances of errors and streamlining the process. It allows you to:
Lower operating costs.
Integrate with existing technology stacks.
Reduce errors that can lead to increased costs.
Dramatically shorten the time between when a customer pays and when the payment information arrives into your CRM system.
Using our API-driven solution, you'll be able to spend less time on files and spreadsheets tracking funds through each payment system and dozens of different providers. We'll help you create an easy-to-manage system that means you can spend more time growing your business, retaining customers and improving client satisfaction.
Accept several types of payment methods
Zai’s powerful APIs bring several payment systems into one easy solution. We can enable domestic money transfers and process many types of collection payment methods, including:
Credit and debit card payments.
Real-time payments (simplified through PayID and virtual accounts).
Not just that, but we offer different payment methods for disbursements. For example, if a customer pays you via direct entry, you're not obliged to withdraw the funds via direct entry. Instead, you can choose to withdraw the funds in real-time via the NPP or via BPAY direct bank transfer.
Integrate with existing CRM and systems
You probably already have your own ERP or CRM in place and don’t want to have to deal with a new software or separate system.
With an API, we can help customise a solution for you that can integrate with your existing systems. Whether you are working with SAP or Oracle, for example, we can help provide a solution that meets your needs.
Bring accounts receivable and accounts payable together
You may have separate departments handling payments and billings. When sending ABA files to the bank, it can quickly get complicated to track revenue and expenses.
With an API, you can reconcile with one system, making it easier to track on both sides of your profit and loss (P&L). You’ll be able to manage both your accounts receivables and your bill payments. But you’ll also be able to split payments and payout to third-party providers if necessary.
Get local support and experience
We’re based in Australia, which means our support staff and experts are available in your time zone. It also means we have extensive experience helping Australian businesses with complex payment workflows and adhere to local Australian compliance requirements.
Most importantly, we optimised our utility bill payment API for Australian payment methods, such as BPAY and PayTo. As the payment ecosystem in Australia grows, we will include new payment options so there are no obstacles for your customers to settle their bills now or in the future.
Who is Zai good for?
Any company that receives regular payments from customers through multiple channels can benefit from Zai's API. Specifically:
Utility companies that want to grow beyond a one-size-fits-all payment solution
Usually, utility providers can benefit from payment providers that work as an off-the-shelf solution. But as you grow, you might be looking for a solution that can work with your ERP system or can split payments in a particular way.
At Zai, we specialise in building a relationship with our customers so we can tailor solutions to your needs and help you grow. This means we're better suited for companies growing beyond that one-size-fits-all first payment solution.
Utility companies that are innovating their tech stack
Utilities’ margins are increasingly compressed with new providers entering the market. If you’re a provider that’s looking to streamline your billing systems, update your tech stack and reduce costs, Zai’s APIs might be the right solution for you.
Example of how Zai can help a utility company with bill payment processing
Here’s how Zai can help you with your bill payments.
How Zai’s API helps service providers offer an improved customer service
Whether you're dealing with gas bill payments, electricity bill payments, water bills, or telecommunication payments, many utility service providers use BPAY to help customers open accounts and pay bills on time. However, the slow settlement times generally mean customers who have paid may need to wait days before they see their services restored.
The delay creates an unpleasant customer experience, as a customer who has paid feels entitled to use their service. But a service provider cannot verify that the payment has arrived until a few days later, once the BPAY transaction settles. The customer’s dissatisfaction causes a negative perception of the provider's brand and reputation.
With an API solution, though, this poor experience doesn't happen.
If the service provider uses Zai’s API to collect BPAY payments, the provider gets an immediate notification once payment is received and can, therefore, restore services. This leads to a happy end-customer experience who can quickly start using their services again.
Use a utility bill payment API to stay ahead of the competition
As a payment orchestration platform, we offer the tools to help utilities streamline their bill payments through an API, improving efficiency and reducing costs. This allows companies that need to handle regular payments from thousands of customers to take advantage of the most modern solutions and ensure payment processing doesn't get in the way of providing customer care.
To learn more about how our API for utility bill payments can help your business, talk to one of our experts, who will be happy to show you how our solutions can help retain customers, improve efficiency and much more.
This information is correct as of January 2023. This information is not to be relied on in making a decision with regard to an investment. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent financial advice before making any form of investment. This article is purely for general information purposes.