ATLANTA, Ga., May 30, 2002 — CheckFree i-Solutions, a provider of interactive e-billing and e-statement software and services and part of CheckFree Corp., and Southern Co. have set up fully interactive electronic billing and payment (EBP) services for Southern Co.’s nearly four million consumers in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
Customers of Georgia Power, Alabama Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric can now access, schedule and pay their utility bills online. Southern Co. is utilizing the complete suite of CheckFree i-Solutions EBP software and services to deliver highly interactive e-bills to both its business and residential customers online.
While the online bill is displayed in the familiar format to which each market is accustomed, the e-bill offers online self-care tools that its paper counterpart cannot.
Customers enrolling in Southern Co.’s e-bill service can access detailed bill information and other online tools anywhere they have a computer and Internet service. The software suite also enables marketing programs that are tailored to the specific interests of customer segments.
After reviewing the bill online, customers can schedule the payment date with a few mouse clicks, and thus avoid spending lesstime opening and paying paper bills each monthby removing the need to open bills, writinge checks, manually recording payments, stuffing envelopes and locatinge stamps. The service immediately captures their current and historical payment information – while they can view up to six months online and seven years offline.
Further, the CheckFree Guarantee protects customers from late fees caused by processing delays and liability for fraud. “With e-billing, Southern Co. can provide its customers with a new and better avenue to pay their bills and manage their accounts,” said Leonard Haynes, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer of Southern Co.
“The service allows us to maintain our competitive advantage in the industry while strengthening relationships with our customers.”
“Southern Co. is one of the companies that is leading the e-billing revolution with a full suite of software and services that integrate customer self-care and marketing with the e-bill,” said Tom Stampiglia, president of CheckFree i-Solutions.
“Southern Co. offers the benefits of receiving and paying their bills online but goes beyond moving a paper bill online. With the e-bill as a primary touch point, Southern Co. is offering its customers powerful online tools to more effectively manage their accounts.”
Managing Accounts Online
Through the e-bill customers can evaluate current and outstanding account balances, connect or disconnect electric service and report outages. Southern Co.’s e-bills also make it easy to sign up for other services, such as enrolling in budget billing. From the e-bill, customers can link to topics of interest such as energy saving tips or to fill in an energy survey to analyze their energy efficiency.
With the exception of Alabama Power, Southern Co. also offers its commercial customers customized Business Energy Evaluation (BEE) reports that provide equipment inventory and equipment upgrade recommendations as well as detailed energy information on total electricity, natural gas and water usage.
Through the E-Bill Southern Co. is utilizing CheckFree i-Solutions Market Direct software to turn customer bills into powerful marketing and communications tools. With the platform, Southern Co. can create targeted online marketing programs, such as advertisements and promotional campaigns, which would normally be sent through paper bills. Southern Co. uses the Market Direct module alongside CheckFree i-Series software to integrate existing customer profile and demographic information with billing data.
As a result, each of Southern Co.’s operating companies will be able to further reduce costs and increase the relevance of certain promotions based on their customer’s individual preference and characteristics.
For example, Southern Co. has defined a campaign for Georgia Power’s Premium Surge product, in which the banner ad for this product will be displayed when a customer views their bill. Whether or not the ad is placed on the e-bill is dependent on several factors including whether the customer is residential, the specific cities, counties or regions in the state of Georgia where the customer lives, and if the customer lives in a single family home or a townhouse.
If the customer clicks on this banner ad, they are redirected to the Georgia Power Premium Surge web site, where they can get more detailed information about the product.
Success with Customer Adoption
Southern Co.’s EBP service is the most frequently accessed Web application with nearly 1.5 million views per month. The utility currently receives online payments from more than 100,000 customers, adding 1,000 new online payments per week.
To date, approximately 78,000 customers are accessing bill information and managing accounts online. How to Enroll Southern Co. customers can log onto www.southerncompany.com or a consumer’s respective utility Web site that provides a link to enroll for the new service.
Additionally, all five utility companies can deliver their bills through CheckFree’s bill distribution and payment network of about 475 financial services sites, Internet portals and personal financial management software.
By enrolling at one of these sites, Southern Co. customers can receive and pay other bills from a growing number of telephone, mortgage, insurance, credit card companies, newspaper publishers and more. Consumers can also use “pay everyone” services to make payments from their computers to anyone to whom they would write a check.
This includes all payments such as charitable deductions and money sent to individuals, such as children in college.
For a complete list of sites that offer CheckFree electronic billing and payment, visit www.checkfree.com/ebillservices.