AT&T nears millionth customer for online billing – Business

AT&T nears millionth customer for online billing – Business – Brief Article

After a lengthy courtship, consumers finally seem ready to embrace the concept of paying their bills online. According to research by Gartner Inc., 32 million Americans will view their credit card statements and other bills online this year, compared to 20 million at the end of last year.

AT&T, now the largest standalone e-biller in the world, has seen interest in its online billing option triple this year and expects to sign up its one-millionth e-billed customer within weeks. AT&T has issued more than 12 million online bills since making the option available to its consumer customers in 1998. California leads the top ten states for consumers who have opted for AT&T online billing followed in order by Florida, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia.

By 2005, it is estimated that there will be more than 40 million Americans receiving their long-distance bills online, according to Gartner, Inc.

“More and more consumers are becoming accustomed to conducting transactions on the Web and current events have accelerated interest,” says Avivah Litan, research director for Gartner Inc.

AT&T’s own research points to growing consumer appreciation of the time and money saved, as well as the added convenience and functionality an online bill provides. Some 94 percent of consumers paying AT&T bills online rate e-bills highly over traditional paper bills.

“Once they try online billing, consumers don’t want to go back to a paper bill,” says Howard McNally, senior vice president for consumer operations at AT&T.

The top three features cited by AT&T customers: the ability to view previous bill statements online, to instantly look up a number that appears on their statement, and to sort calls by number, location or date. The latter feature is particularly handy for those with roommates or frequent business calls.

A feature added this year — AT&T View-N-Pay — allows consumers to control when payment is made by authorizing the transaction, rather than having it automatically debited from their checking accounts or charged to their credit cards automatically. Some 60 percent of AT&T’s online customers have chosen the View-N-Pay option since it was introduced in August.

AT&T provides additional incentives as well. Those with online billing can apply for credit for a wrong number online and make changes in their calling plans on the Web, and some of the company’s most attractively priced plans are only available online. In addition, for a limited time, consumer customers who sign up for AT&T online billing will receive a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com.

Online customer care in general has been growing in popularity, AT&T reports, with the number of consumer customers now completing self-service transactions on the Web up significantly this year.

Companies like AT&T benefit from online billing because it reduces paper and mailing costs and allows them to develop e-relationships that can potentially lower marketing and customer service expenses. AT&T’s studies have shown that the development of a Web relationship also increases consumer brand loyalty.

AT&T is currently running a series of television ads developed by FCB in several markets promoting customer awareness of online billing. The company offers demonstrations of online billing at http://www.att.com/onlinebill/.

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COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group