A conversation with Frank Lockridge, Western Union senior vice president of global payments and head of Speedpay, and Alexis Blackstead, vice president of payment products, Speedpay
Last year, Speedpay teamed up with Nordis Technologies to transform the efficiency and flexibility of customer communications for its clients. Speedpay, a Western Union® company, provides electronic bill presentment and payment solutions to businesses that send more than 50,000 bills per month.
Alexis’ team gained efficiencies with Nordis’ Expresso application, decreasing client onboarding time for printed communications, reducing content change management time from weeks to hours, and slashing the number of managed letter templates from more than 1,400 to just a dozen.
How important is technology to grow your business?
Alexis: It’s crucial to stay on top of the latest advancements in infrastructure as well as tools and new techniques ‒ the science behind how people interact with technology ‒ all of these are essential to growing the business.
Our biller clients have an appetite for new technology and seek constant improvement for their customers’ journeys. Some have a desire to be early adopters; others need help to move away from legacy systems. Speedpay has an excellent reputation for being first to market with new technology and payment methods and has always served as consultant and adviser to clients wherever they are in their technology adoption. This is fueled by the size and strength of Western Union and its practices regarding technology selection, vetting and innovation.
One thing I like about Nordis is they decided a while ago to be a technology firm, not a print and mail provider. This point of view directly aligns with Speedpay’s core objectives as well. We are always looking for alliances that offer the same cutting-edge technological solutions that we do.
What initiatives are you focused on now?
Frank: For Speedpay, it’s all about continuous improvement for clients and customers — improving the experience when customers make payments and pay bills, as well as biller clients’ experience in working with us to develop enhanced bill presentment and payment processes.
From the customers’ perspective, we’re constantly challenging ourselves to make sure their experience is as streamlined and optimized as possible. And we’ve had great success in reducing the time biller clients need to spend reviewing documents, communicating business requirements for compliance management and maintaining an audit trail.
This client/customer-first philosophy is similar to Nordis’, which is why we saw this collaboration as a great fit.
How do customer communications fit into your plans?
Alexis: Customer communications are fundamental. Every bill payment starts first with the customer receiving notification. Research shows that after initial onboarding, most customers only interact with a company at bill paying time. Optimizing communications is critical to driving electronic payment adoption and enabling customer engagement over a lifetime with the biller.
The Speedpay Pulse, Speedpay’s 2018 longitudinal consumer research study, revealed approximately 41.5% of consumers prefer to receive digital bill statements. As we continue to streamline the customer experience to make it easier, faster and more convenient, we can help our clients influence the customer’s ebilling and payment preferences and provide our clients with bottom-line impact and improved efficiency, positively impacting cash flow and reducing days sales outstanding.
What would surprise people about Speedpay?
Alexis: Because we’re often white-labeled to the customer, people outside of the payment industry don’t always realize they pay their bills using Speedpay each month. Though Western Union acquired us in 2002, we’ve been a leader in the electronic payments industry since 1989 and we process hundreds of millions of payments per year.
What’s your favorite Expresso tip or feature?
Alexis: The piece that grabbed me when I first saw it was Expresso’s modular content management — the ability to save and manage logos, text and images in one place while mapping them to hundreds of different documents. This enables our team to make global changes that impact many different documents in just minutes.
It was a cumbersome process to manage physical print/mail customer communications, especially when changes need to be made. Migrating to Expresso has been great for our team from a morale perspective. Anytime you can offer better solutions to make employees’ work lives better, as well as benefit customers and clients, it’s a good thing. It makes us feel really good about this collaboration.
What is your organization doing to improve the customer journey?
Frank: We’re taking a careful look at the steps customers go through to complete payments across all platforms. We’re doing this internally and externally, collaborating with clients to optimize processes end to end.
Alexis: In the past month, I’ve spent several days at client sites working on customer journey mapping. As Frank said, it’s not just our piece, but working holistically with billers because bills and payments are a key piece of their customers’ journeys.