BT moots move to online billing

BT is in advanced negotiations with a US company that specialises in turning paper-based bills into online bills, and then using these for personalised marketing.

Edocs, based in Massachusetts, is talking to BT about a partnership that will have a profound effect on the way BT bills and talks to its customers, according to someone close to the negotiations.

Online billing is beginning to take off in the US, as companies realise its potential for marketing and communication. It allows major “old-economy” companies to leverage their monthly communications with large numbers of customers, about whom they have specific and up-to-date purchasing information.

Combined with a growing legion of personalisation tools, this information is a useful starting point for customised marketing campaigns.

Online data can be instantly updated and is therefore highly responsive to changes in customer behaviour. Taking billing online would open the door to increased customer loyalty, as well as third-party advertising and special offers. It would also save companies the cost of direct mail.

The UK has so far stayed on the sidelines of online billing, but if BT makes a move, other major utilities such as Centrica would be likely to follow its lead.

US companies already employing Edocs’ technology include Sprint, WorldCom, GE Card Services and Amex. Edocs is also working with a consortium of Norway’s largest financial institutions, and claims that 60 to 80 per cent of all Norway’s paper bills may soon be Web-enabled.

BT was unavailable for comment as Marketing Week went to press.

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