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Local government and e-commerce

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You’ve seen it before: Credit card and utilities companies, banks and others urging consumers to “go green” by eliminating paper bills and statements and opting for electronic bill pay instead. Recent data insists that online bill pay—more broadly, e-commerce—is no longer just a trend, but a shift in the way consumers expect to handle their bills.According to the Consumer Billing and Payment Trends Survey recently conducted by Fiserv, online bill paying has grown 78 percent in just under a year and shows no signs of slowing down. According to this survey, nearly 100 million American households now use the Internet and 72.5 million of those households include someone who uses online banking. Half of those people—or, roughly 36.4 million—participate in online bill pay.So what does this mean for local government? In offering e-commerce solutions to constituents, city and state governments can leverage the shift to paperless while providing convenience in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Expanded accessibility—making it easier for community members to pay bills, purchase goods or services and more by moving the cashier’s window online. No longer are citizens limited by office hours, transportation, or certain types of payments.
  • Increased efficiency—making the process for payment consistent and streamlined, as well as somewhat automated to ensure that payments are made in a timely manner.
  • Decreased costs—fewer staff members processing payments in-person and by hand, along with the elimination of some paper bills and statements allowing for a reduction in both hard and soft costs.
  • New opportunity—integrating e-commerce solutions can often open a new door in what services and programs a city or state offers.

If your state or city government office hasn’t already, explore these options in e-commerce solutions…

Online bill pay
By and large, online bill pay just may be the most popular service that local government entities are currently exploring through e-commerce solutions. Encouraging constituents to pay everything from parking tickets to child support to taxes online to renewing and paying for professional license renewal, the root of this service is ease of use—for citizens and for government departments alike.

Online requests for products or services
Beyond bill pay, e-commerce solutions can enable a variety of forms that may or may not be associated with payment, but perhaps still with a user account. For instance, the State of Michigan allows users to purchase motor vehicle permits on its website, as well as make charitable contributions to its parks department and children’s trusts and even purchase maps, branded T-shirts and mugs and special edition license plates. In opening an online storefront with logo’d items like T-shirts, static cling window decals, travel mugs and more, your government website is providing a means to promote and perpetuate pride among constituents while creating a small source of earned income. A true win-win for everyone.

Information requests
The state government in Idaho uses solutions to enable its residents to search for and purchase crash reports online to submit to insurance companies. Other states and cities also have enacted an online request for proposal (RFP) capability through e-commerce solutions to find qualified land surveyors, contractors and more. Create awareness of these unique and convenient online services by promoting them among community members.

In addition to information requests, Idaho’s website is also capable of processing complaints or grievances against businesses, medical professionals and law enforcement for review with the necessary boards. The Montgomery County website in Maryland allows community members to submit complaints of abandoned vehicles on private property or building and zoning violations, while the City of Fresno, California enables users to submit complaints of graffiti in the area. Make these links easy to find and clearly worded on the website, promote through direct mail and e-mail and consider distributing reminders, like stickers or pens emblazoned with direct URLs to these services, to those who come in to fill out paper complaints or grievances.

Kacer/United TranzActions, Mark. “What’s Driving Online Bill Pay Growth?” United TranzActions. Web.

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