2019 Fast Forward:

The payments world continues to evolve and is going through critical and disruptive changes. A failure to embrace this disruption could lead to lost time, money and, potentially, customers.  Here are four industries which have traditionally been slow to react to payment innovation. Take heart, I expect to see progress over the next 12 months.

Payments are currently in a period of transition from the traditional to the digital. Witness a recent Capgemini report on consumer payment demand in 2019 which describes the payments industry as rapidly transforming from an infrastructure of cards and terminals to a system dominated by mobile devices such as smart watches, phones and even IoT-enabled cars!

Healthcare goes mobile – and text

Healthcare payments continue to be a hotly watched area for revenue cycle managers and C-level industry executives. Providers and patients alike must adjust to high-deductible insurance plans, value-based care price transparency and public healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

For providers, payment priorities are set to shift through 2019. A Q4 2018 study by BillingTree revealed that providers are focusing on improving the patient payment experience with technology. While agent-assisted and online payments currently dominate the revenue cycle management process, text-based notification and billing is now the fastest growing channel being explored.

More than a quarter of all providers plan to adopt text notifications for bill payment/notification in the next 12 months. This number more than doubled from the previous year’s survey, indicating this is a fast emerging channel. Expect this to continue into 2019 with text-based payments gaining wider adoption as an immediate, convenient and compliant option which suits both providers and patients. 

B2B stops pushing paper

As we move into 2019, increasingly digitized channels will start to have a serious impact on commercial payments. Consumers are used to paying bills and purchases with their credit card online, over the phone and even directly from their mobile device. Yet the B2B payment sector continues to drag its feet when it comes to payment channel innovation. The benefits are clear –  quick handling of multiple payments, increased security and integration with existing business management and accounting software.

But, recent Mastercard research shows that over one-third of businesses plan to decrease their use of paper checks in the future, with more than 40 percent saying they are too slow and require too much manual paper work. Watch this space as we move through 2019, as more businesses ditch paper and realize the efficiency benefits of moving to ePayables.

Omnichannel goes from afterthought to first-thought for CUs

Although many people are aware that credit unions often offer preferred loan and credit card rates than banks –and boast lower/fewer fees – there are still many myths surrounding membership. With confusion concerning eligibility, technology, and payment services, many people who could benefit from membership are often reluctant to take the first step.

In order to allay these concerns and appeal to a younger customer base with huge potential, credit unions must prioritize the member experience. We are starting to see credit unions focus more on their service offerings, realizing that providing a wide selection of payment options can improve member service. Technology is moving from afterthought to first-thought. The ability for members to make payments or check their account anytime from their mobile device or any computer terminal is a benefit which they will sincerely appreciate. 

ARM must deal with convenience fee confusion

Omnichannel expectations are becoming key to driving revenue in accounts receivables management (ARM). But simply offering a wide range of payment methods doesn’t mean a company has found the Holy Grail. Just because a customer chooses to receive a notification of an outstanding bill via email doesn’t mean they plan to settle the bill online. It may be more convenient to pay over the phone or to even negotiate a payment plan with an agent. This means the consumer must be able to move freely between ‘channels’ and payment methods—those who innovate here in 2019 will stride ahead of less prepared competitors.

Less of a technology trend and more of an industry-wide debate is the continued confusion around no-fee to biller models and convenience fees. Respondents to the BillingTree ARM study were split more than ever before in their attitude towards convenience fees. This shows no signs of abating in 2019. It’s up to the card issuers to enforce a change to clear up the confusion once and for all.

2019 – a decisive year

The next 12 months is a critical time for healthcare providers, B2B payments, credit unions and ARM organizations. Those who react quickest may hit the perfect trifecta: faster payments, happier customers and increased revenue.


Dave Yohe is vice president of marketing for BillingTree.