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Case Study: Bill Payments for Retail Banking Customers

For the first time, Internet Banking empowered customers to pay their water, electricity and telephone bills online.

A large worldwide Financial Institution set-up a debit card pilot in Bangalore, India. The basic business proposition was to test the marketing and financial viability of opening up a mass base through a remote-access-only savings account product and then cross-selling various funds and fee based products through a carefully crafted life stage marketing program.

Remote access was through ATM centers, touch screen kiosks, Internet banking, debit card machines and phone banking. Internet banking was a key remote access tool, because of low transaction service costs and for the ability of the channel to put the customer in charge. The initial Internet banking offerings were Information retrieval (Statements, Account Balance, etc), and Intranet-relationship Account transfers. Customer research quickly revealed that customers wanted a comprehensive range of services, and payment of Utility Bills figured high in their wish lists. Releasing a full-function Utility Bills payment system would also result in competitive advantage and enhance the technology profile. However, Utility Payment options had to be rolled out across all access points - touch screens, phone banking etc, simultaneously.

The architecture of the Utility Bills payment module addressed unique process challenges: every utility had its own unique business processes. Cellular, pager and telephone utilities were computerized and could accept data transfer at a central point into the billing systems.

The Government run electricity and water utilities had manual, decentralized billing systems across 100+ billing centers in a single city. If the payment was submitted to the wrong billing center, there was no automatic re-directing of the data/payment to the right center. The customer could even face disconnection of services. Therefore, the front-end system design incorporated:

  • Minimum data entries, to avoid customer/front office manual errors
  • self-learning systems, whereby the system could predict the data entry, based on previous transactions
  • Cross-checking algorithms, to verify integrity of data
Technology Used
  • Application Development: Java, JSP, C
  • Web Server: Weblogic 5.1
  • Database: Oracle 8i
  • Operating System: Sun Solaris 2.7

The back-end was flexible enough to fit in with the different process of the utilities. Plus, there had to be complete information and financial integrity, across access channels. The system incorporated a central utility creation and maintenance module. Parameters were stored centrally, and accessed by a variety of front-end devices. Customer-side finance's were passed online, while the Utility-side finance's were passed in a batch mode. Utilities also had the facility to access their transaction details, online.