Did you run out of cash yet? Have you had that experience where you’ve become so used to using a card for everything your pockets are literally empty of small change? So what do you do when you need to pay for something that demands cash? Like a parking meter for example?
Even before COVID-19 accelerated digitalisation, paying for things like parking wasn’t always easy for customers. Whenever you’re in a rush you never seem to have enough of the right sort of change in your pocket. How many of us have had to search through the footwell, the bottom of our bags or the glove compartment for some coinage? Or beg a passer by to exchange coins with us?
COVID has not just accelerated digitalisation, it’s also made us more wary of exchanging coins with a stranger. In fact all of this now seems bizarrely old-fashioned.
Using a mobile to pay for parking isn’t exactly new. They’ve been doing it in Scandinavia and Asia for some considerable time. It’s even reached the UK. There are car parks where you can pay with your phone – sort of. In fact, you’re using an app to pay and because of the lack of standardisation that means having multiple apps bunging up your phone for potentially every car park you visit. Worse, downloading that app while you’re travelling comes off your data allowance and suddenly you’re back to the deja vu of inconvenience for customers, when they discover they don’t have enough data, the app downloads frustratingly slowly, it’s not installing properly or it doesn’t work on their phone.
As bad as all of this is for consumers, for business customers paying for parking is even more of a nightmare. Not only do they have all the same problems as consumers, but to top that they have to claim these costs back from their employer. This means using their precious time to fill out expense forms with dozens of small line items, and then their accounts department has to use their time to check them. All of this costs far more to process than the money the company is handing back to their employees.
But what if you could pay with your phone direct to your phone bill?
Victoria Harris of mobile payment aggregator Dynamic Mobile Billing (DMB) emphasises that for all of the reasons stated the time is right for direct-to-bill charging of services such as car parking.
“Mobile billing is swift, efficient and safe,” she says. “It’s registration free and available on any mobile phone.”
In fact the type of solution supplied by DMB has a range of benefits for customers and mobile operators:
- using SMS means it is easy, fast and doesn’t require a lot of data or even a lot of connectivity. SMS payment also means the service can be used by all mobile phones – including feature phones – increasing accessibility
- accessibility is also improved for vulnerable customers such as the sick, elderly, pregnant women and those with disabilities because it removes the need to find the meter, queue for the meter and fiddle with change. This also makes paying for parking safer for lone motorists who don’t have to go to remote and potentially dark areas of car parks to pay, increasing the motorists feeling of security
- it reduces the number of companies you have to divulge bank details to, since mobile operators already have their customers’ bank details. But additionally, it enables those that don’t have a bank account, or don’t want to use it for payments, to make digital payments
- it avoids the requirement for cash, which represents an inconvenience for both customer and parking provider. Emptying meters and handling cash, reduces the profitability of parking providers and is potentially insecure (tempting thieves to break into the meter)
- it aggregates payments onto a bill for business customers, streamlining their accountancy processes.
DMB calculates that each year there are up to 2.8 billion ‘parking events’ in the UK alone. So is the time now right to revisit straight-to-bill payments for this type of service? Have we reached a stage of digitalisation where customers are motivated or expect to be able to pay using their mobile phone? Harris thinks so. “By utilising mobile payments through DMB, the parking operator can leverage a bill that the consumer is already paying,” she explains. “The fee structure is greatly simplified and by adding mobile payments to their existing parking solutions and services the operator fulfils everyone’s needs.”
COVID-19 has resulted in digital disruption. It has made customers reassess how they use digital and forced digital refuseniks to adopt new, digital methods of payment and communication during the crisis. This acceleration of digitalisation means mobile operators need to reassess their previous thinking regarding issues such as mobile payments and straight-to-bill charges, as the market has both changed and matured. Many business customers currently struggle with managing small line items on expense accounts. Adding this type of option to B2B offers therefore makes a lot of sense, particularly if partnering with an aggregator such as DMB. However, mobile operators also need to ensure the utility of their bills – particularly that charges like these are clearly expressed, separated from comms charges, assignable to cost centres and provide the drill down needed for scrutiny. Combining B2B bill innovation with this type of service creates an even more compelling offer in our opinion.
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