Conversation is the key: Sometimes a machine is not enough

Thanks to the e-commerce boom, you could be forgiven for underestimating how many customers still pay using the Mail Order Telephone Order (MOTO) channel. When ordering the latest gift from Amazon or your next grocery delivery, it’s easy to assume that it’s only a matter of time before all shopping is done online.

Yet the telephone is still alive and well. In the UK alone, 1.2 billion transactions are made via the telephone or post. In fact, the average brick and mortar transaction is around £50 while the average value for post and telephone orders is over £140.

And what’s more, the number of phone transactions is growing in tandem with the growth in ecommerce – as more people shop online, more people pay by telephone. True, many customers will begin their search online, but they frequently find they need assistance – they can’t see what they need on the website, don’t understand the process, or simply prefer to make a payment to a person rather than a machine.

If you accept credit or debit card payment, whether in person, via the internet or over the phone, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) cannot be ignored. It lays out strict rules stipulating how card data may be handled and was designed to ensure merchants meet minimum levels of security in order to protect consumers.

For merchants, PCI DSS plays a vital part in the fight against fraud, which has increasingly serious consequences. New data protection regulations from the EU will soon mean that companies failing to protect customer credit card data could be fined up to 5% of annual revenues, and recent research commissioned by Semafone revealed that 86% of people would not do business with an organisation that suffered a security breach involving their personal data. Clearly it’s a risk you can’t afford to take.

The downside to PCI DSS is that it can be expensive to implement. The numerous checks and controls required grow ever more stringent as you handle more transactions. Where payments are taken over there phone, there are even more challenges. In total, compliance for a contact centre taking telephone payments can require as many as 286 controls every year.

Semafone’s answer lies in treating the cause; we avoid the need to expose card data to all these areas in the first place. During a call, rather than asking the customer to say their card details aloud, Semafone lets the agent ask the customer to enter these numbers using their telephone keypad. From here, the card details are sent directly to the customer’s bank, by-passing the contact centre and its technology infrastructure completely. Behind the scenes, the dial tones generated by push button telephones are masked and replaced by plain tones so the card data cannot be decoded by a fraudster. The agent stays on the call to walk the customer through the transaction if they have any difficulty.

Everyone benefits. Customers feel safer because they know their card data is being protected, and they are able to enjoy the personal service that was their primary reason for using the telephone in the first place. The merchant is freed from the risk of fraud – and the reputational damage that brings – while agents are released from severe security restrictions. Finally, over 90% of the controls needed to meet PCI DSS requirements can be avoided altogether.

The more choice you offer your customers, the better. By providing the option of paying by telephone you are opening up the possibility of increasing loyalty, improving sales closure rates and growing revenues. There are many people who still don’t trust payments over the web, so make sure you are providing the right channels for them. Even when customers are shopping online there is an opportunity to use voice for the last mile. A “call me” button on the website, for example, can not only offer a secure payment for customers over the phone, but also to provide an excellent up-sell opportunity. The telephone is still a force to be reckoned with, so don’t overlook it; make sure you really are listening to your customers.

Written by Tim Critchley, CEO of Semafone, which provides secure voice payment software to contact centres. The Secured by Semafone trustmark is used by Semafone’s clients and partners as a sign to customers that their card data is secure when making a payment over the phone.

Semafone are a Silver Sponsor of ESRM on 2 December and will be available at the event to discuss all of the above. For more information, visit the event page.