Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines ‘integrated receivables’ as the aggregation, validation, and normalization of payment data to…wait no, I am not going to start there.
Defining a perspective concept is much like trying to hold the wind in your hand; as soon as you think you have it, it has already moved on. Integrated receivables, like most modern-day concepts, is rooted in anticipating unpredictability rather than refined processes. But, no matter how much you conceptually embrace ambiguity, it does not get work done. So maybe we need to get some sense of scope out of the way before we make the move from concept to concrete.
Payments: A Changing Industry
Like many industries, the payment landscape has experienced some of the greatest influx of changes recently, particularly when it comes to the abundance of consumer choices. Volumes can be written on whether this is good for humanity or not, but regardless, it is here. In fact, more businesses than ever are reaching out for assistance to navigate this new economic arena, particularly in handling:
- Increased Payments – Outside of economic challenges, more people means contending with more payments moving along more rails (digital and physical). Though this is great from a cash flow perspective, the increased volume increases the workload to reconcile the payments against the bills due.
- Anticipation – Different than a prediction, the anticipation of what comes next is active and takes time. Time is the one commodity that none of us can manufacture more of, therefore, requiring businesses to lean on the assistance of others (or outsourcing).
- Check – Though many banks and credit unions are taking the initiative to stop the printing of checks, we are an attachment society, with persistence in checks almost a U.S. exclusive. Ignoring this legacy payment method, however, can disengage certain payers or add unnecessary manual reconciliation labor.
- Cash – While several countries are pushing digital currency initiatives, much like with checks, many U.S. consumers are attached to their cash use, echoing the same challenges for businesses if ignored.
- Faster Payments – Though not the regulatory push for adoption in the U.S. yet (as it is in other countries), with multiple rails to contend with (Zelle®, RTP®, FedNow) many businesses have adopted a wait-and-see or a wait and forget approach, rather than turning to their financial institution for solutions.
- Privacy – Habitually assumed, with the increase of regulation and consumer awareness, that businesses are now required to be aware of and address how their consumer data is stored.
Are Personalized Payments & Integrated Receivables the Future?
Omnichannel, a term usually reserved for marketing, focuses on a consistent yet personalized experience across all channels. As much as individuals like choice, they also don’t want to make a mistake. If businesses can adopt curated paths instead of rigid or freeform direction, they can create a pleasant experience for their customers and workers alike, while also preparing for the world's changes as they come.
There are two ways to navigate the increased payment complexities: technology and time. Though often thought of as mutually exclusive approaches, a successful tactic employs both (think: Venn Diagram). With the right tools, an experienced builder can create an incredible skyscraper – however, the tools themselves are near nothing without the builder’s hands, and the builder’s hands could nigh complete the first floor without the right tools.
Today businesses, government entities, and organizations alike are looking for a trusted advisor as much as they are looking for a financial institution. Integrated receivables, traditionally in the form of outsourced data entry, have reached a new evolution, beginning with a payer’s human-centered experience.
Though not an exhaustive list, nor required to check all the boxes, a financial institution should consider the following features in their integrated receivable offerings:
- Biller direct payment offerings (portal, email, etc.) with downstream reconciliation and validation.
- Recurring/tele transaction payments.
- Kiosk/mobile payment integration.
- Electronic bill payment intercept and posting.
- ACH CCD/CTX addenda record parsing.
- EDI and custom remittance file import.
- Mail-In processing via lockbox or merchant side scanning.
- Check, credit/debit card, ACH, cash payment clearing.
Consumers will typically choose the payment method of least resistance to them personally. With a little front-end assistance, coupled with back-end integration and the spice of advice, you can empower your merchants to embrace (and even enjoy) the payment challenges of today and tomorrow with integrated receivables.