It was just last week that I spotted a very interesting story on paperless billing, but I can’t remember whether I saw it as a Google Alert or if it was flagged by our media monitoring service. It could have been both. I’m telling myself that my age is not to blame for forgetting the source, it’s the amount of information I read online and how I retain (or don’t in this case) what I see on screen.
Here’s what caught my eye: an article on how Canadians continue to value paper statements, despite the fact that they are charged for these services. All but one person I shared this with said, “I didn’t know that Canadian businesses were starting to charge for paper mail.” Perhaps this is because many Canadians have been willing to pay the fee to keep their paper.
As Joanne McNeish states in her opinion piece, “Many Canadians quickly embraced electronic bill payment. But after almost 20 years, more than 90 percent of online Canadians still resist giving up paper bills.” Ms. McNeish attributes this phenomenon of paying to receive bills to the notion that, “now that paper bills have a price tag, the service becomes inherently more valuable.”
She goes on to say that paper bills mean much more than the amount due. Paper represents control. I never thought about paper this way until I read her article. I had an immediate flashback to the 2008 ice storm that left us without power for 11 days. Printed books kept us sane. I love my iPad. And my Kindle. I admit I’ve changed the way I read when I travel. Pages are no longer turned, they’re swiped. But when I stepped out on the deck this past weekend, I relaxed with paper, not pixels. There is no doubt that technology has granted consumers convenience in retrieving and reading information, but it is far from reliable. On the other hand, there is a comfort in the permanence of paper that isn’t as easily recognized by the general public.
According to news reports, following the August 28th meeting between the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and nearly a dozen companies, including Canada’s biggest telecom companies, the regulatory commission received a commitment from telecom company executives to exempt seniors, people with disabilities, military veterans and people with no Internet connections from paying the fee for receiving a paper bill.
It was interesting to read that many banks and other financial institutions have already eliminated their paper bill fees after feeling pressure from the government. This pressure could include environmental efforts to “go green,” but if you’re a regular reader of SpeakingDIRECT, you know we’ve challenged the notion that reducing paper use protects the environment.
One of the most important elements of every direct marketing campaign is the call to action (CTA). As Ms. McNeish says, “When using electronic banking, people feel that they have less control over their financial information than they do when the information is received on paper. That’s because you can touch it, hold on to it and keep it for reference for as long as you want. The paper bill is a form of protection that can call banks and billing organizations to act on your behalf.” In other words, paper itself is inherently a CTA.
What do you think? Are the companies promoting paperless billing missing the boat?
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