Amazon Pay launches bill inquiry feature via Alexa devices

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Amazon Pay is partnering with payment network Paymentus to allow U.S. consumers to query Alexa devices about their bills, the companies announced Sunday at the Money2020 conference in Las Vegas.

The move stops short of enabling bill payments through Alexa, though Amazon said it would add this capability in the future. Through voice, the companies want to make it easier for customers to learn about their bills. It also introduces voice as a touch point in the payments journey.

“We want to remove that friction [around bill queries] and enable the interaction in the moment,” said Patrick Gauthier, vice president of Amazon Pay, in an interview with Bank Innovation. “You might think of Paymentus the the back end for the utility, and we are connecting Paymentus to Alexa and Amazon Pay.” Forty million households living in 95% of U.S. zip codes can now use the voice-based bill query capability, according to Amazon.

For Paymentus, the collaboration with Amazon will help expand its network and add new forms of engagement between its client businesses and their customers. Amazon decided to roll out voice-based bill query capabilities through Alexa because bill inquiries are a significant pain point for consumers and billers, explained Gauthier.

According to consumer research carried out by Amazon, 70% of U.S. consumers are not on autopay. The tendency to review bills before paying them eats up time for consumers and results in additional costs for billers. Through voice-based inquiry capabilities, Amazon hopes billers will save money and time. It’s also a means to embed Amazon Pay into additional consumer use cases.

By connecting Amazon Pay to billers via Paymentus, customers can acquire additional details about their bills, including when bills are due and changes compared to previous billing cycles. Amazon Pay credentials are already connected to Alexa devices, but to use the bill query feature through Alexa, customers will need to grant permission to associate their Amazon accounts with their utility accounts. Paymentus works with 2,000 billers, including 700 utility companies.

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Gauthier acknowledged that the use of voice as a financial services tool is still in its early stages of adoption. In recent years, financial institutions, including Capital One and Ally Bank, have rolled out capabilities that allow customers to interact with their institutions through Alexa devices.

Recent surveys suggest customer comfort with the channel is evolving. According to a Paysafe study of more than 6,000 consumers in U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany, Austria and Bulgaria released in July, consumers’ willingness to use voice payments depends on the type of transaction. The study reported that 57% of consumers would use voice technology to pay for “low-value goods and services,” but only 18% said they would pay for a vacation or flights through voice.

Despite the nascency of voice as a financial services channel, Amazon is playing a long game. According to Gauthier, the expectation is that by introducing voice into the bill payment journey, the consequences will be improved customer experiences, and over time, changes in customer behavior.

“I have not met a lot of people who say, ‘oh my God, swiping this card is so inconvenient,'” he said. “We would rather focus on the bigger picture, which is how we can transform the customer journey.”

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