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BillHero brings bill-paying capabilities to Messenger via chatbot

BillHero’s new Facebook Messenger chatbot gives users an easy, secure way to pay bills without having to leave the social media platform.

BillHero is a bank-agnostic mobile application used by millennials to directly pay more than 7,500 billers. While a number of brands and some financial institutions have introduced chatbots, BillHero claims to be the first to enable users to pay bills from within Messenger.

“Global learnings from WhatsApp, WeChat, and other top messaging apps would suggest that this is untapped and ripe for incredible growth here in the U.S.,” said Dan Holt, CEO of BillHero.

“We are excited to be in on the ground floor to develop new capabilities as Facebook evolves the platform, making bill management as easy as technology will allow.

“The ‘pay’ functionality only scratches the surface of what BillHero will be able to do with Messenger over the next year.”

A new customer experience
Once a new chat session begins, BillHero sends the user a one-time authentication code that will authorize the Messenger thread for that session only as security measure.

Users can select from existing payment methods within their app to make a payment on Messenger. Only the last four digits of a credit card or debit card will pushed through the chat for security reasons.

“Messenger presented an entirely new way of interacting with our complex biller systems,” Mr. Holt said. “With a mobile app, the temporary state is typically stored on the client where reasonable.

“With Messenger, our backend architecture needed to handle storing all intermediate state, as well as guiding the user flow,” he said. “It was an entirely new way of handling the customer experience.”

Conversation as a platform
BillHero is a mobile-first platform for paying bills that is mainly used by millennials. The free app also enables users to add bills instantly with PicturePay and EmailPay, split bills with roommates as well as send and collect money directly within the app.

With millennials spending significant amounts of time inside messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, the app saw an opportunity to increase the speed and efficacy of user interactions.

A number of brands have added chatbots in recent months.

American Express cardholders can interactively manage their credit accounts through a chatbot in Facebook Messenger, streamlining customer service for on-the-go consumers (see story).

Taco Bell is testing a new Slack interface, called TacoBot, that enables users to order food directly within the messaging platform (see story).

“’Conversation as a platform’ is widely acknowledged to be the next big thing in terms of how humans interact with the digital world,” Mr. Holt said. “The opening of a search engine or app will be replaced by a simple textual or verbal query in chatbots — in fact, we’re already doing this when we ask Siri questions.

“When you combine this with the fact that millennials are actively replacing traditional banking activities with mobile alternatives, it’s clear that chatbots will play a major role in how we pay bills in the future,” he said.