Are you taking phone credit card payments?

During the last couple of conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve been surprised by how many utilities are still taking phone credit card payments in the office.

There are at least three downsides to taking phone credit card payments in person rather than using an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. Let’s examine each of them in detail.

It’s inconvenient for your customers

Here’s an actual scenario – your customer gets home from work only to find a reminder notice in the mail that the due date is fast approaching. Your customer wants to pay by phone, but your office is closed, so it will have to wait until tomorrow. Hopefully, your customer works at a job where they can take a break to make a personal phone call during the workday.

If you had an IVR system, your customer could have called and paid as soon as they opened the reminder notice.

It’s time consuming

Let’s step through the process of taking a credit card payment over the phone:

  • Your customer calls to inquire about their balance due – quite possibly without their account number.
  • Customer Service Rep looks up the account in the computer, tells the customer how much they owe.
  • Your customer asks if they can pay by credit card over the phone.
  • Customer Service Rep responds affirmatively.
  • Your customer says “hold on” while locating their credit card and reads out the card number, expiration date, and CVV code.
  • Customer Service Rep enters the customer’s credit card info in the computer (or worse yet, writes it down to take to a credit card terminal at the front counter!).
  • Customer Service Rep waits for the approval code and reads it back to the customer.
  • Customer says “thank you”, and hangs up.
  • Customer Service Rep enters the payment into the system.
  • Finally, if the Customer Service Rep had to write down the customer’s credit card info, that piece of paper must now be shredded.

Repeat those steps several times a day and you’ve taken a big chunk of time out of the Customer Service Rep’s day. With an IVR system, the entire process is automated and your office staff is free to focus on other things.

It’s a security risk

Any time someone reads credit card information over the phone, there is a risk of that information being misused. I know – you trust your employees, but no one really knows what might be going on in someone else’s personal life.

Years ago, I worked with a utility who had someone call and claim the utility charged their credit card, but the cardholder wasn’t a customer of the utility. When the utility investigated, they found that the account that was paid with this person’s credit card was frequently paid using different credit cards. Upon further investigation, the utility discovered that the customer from the account worked at another business in town taking phone credit card payments!

How do I implement an IVR system?

If you are already taking online payments (and if you’re not, we need to talk!), more than likely, your online payment provider – whether it’s your billing software vendor or a third-party payment processor – offers an IVR option, as well. If not, give me a call and I’ll put you in touch with a vendor that does.

Are you taking payments efficiently?

Are you certain that your office is processing all payments (not just phone credit card payments) efficiently? If you aren’t absolutely certain, please give call me at 919-673-4050 or email me at gary@utilityinformationpipeline.com to learn how a business review could help you find out.

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