It’s a simple fact that no business survives without revenue coming in. While there are plenty of ways to collect payments, one of the most popular is the phone –and that’s where your contact center gets involved with this mission-critical process. When your customers call to make a payment, contact centers have two basic options: let them work through your agents, or let them access a self-service IVR. But at a time when automation is changing the role of your contact center team overall, how can you be sure that your payment processes are getting the most bang for your operational buck?
Calculating Current Costs
You probably already know there’s a KPI for that. Cost per transaction allows contact centers to measure the efficiency of their service, and there are two steps to calculating it: Determine the total cost of completing the transaction process, and then divide that by the total number of completed transactions. Sounds simple, right? Not necessarily. The devil is in the details of how you define total cost. It isn’t merely the cost of labor and management; you also have to include other costs of your team’s time on the job such as:
- Benefits and incentives
- Training and recruitment
- Hardware and software
- Occupancy and facility upkeep
Beyond the costs of maintaining your team, you must consider the costs of actually requesting and receiving the electronic payment. In addition to any fees paid by your business to the banks, there are the fees to access payment processors and gateways. These charges may apply by transaction or, in the case of phone payments, by the minute.
Finally, even if your cost per transaction metric seems cost-efficient, there’s an additional security concern that contact centers have to contend with: Payment processing involves the exchange of personal, confidential information that many customers prefer not to share with a live agent. Even if customers don’t mind, the second they do share their information, your center is responsible for ensuring the safety of that data, even with the very agents who are processing the data.
When it comes to mitigating the risk around payments, the key has become PCI compliance. Back in 2004, the major credit card companies faced the security risks head-on by forming the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, which developed, released and updates the PCI-DSS (PCI Data Security Standard). Any business that processes or stores personally identifiable information (PII) in the context of any payment card must comply with this standard. It’s possible to certify an entire call center as PCI-compliant, but this is not an easy or cheap undertaking.
The Power of IVR
By now you’re surely seeing why so many contact centers are exploring other options for payment processing: A well-designed IVR mitigates many of the common problems that accompany the over-the-phone payment process, while providing benefits to customers such as shorter call times and lower levels of frustration. Customers can access their account information quickly and personalize their own call experience. Harnessing the automated power of IVR also allows companies to proactively notify customers of their account status and provide an option to transfer to the payment interface during the same call. Once customers complete their payment, the IVR can generate a payment verification and send it to customers in a variety of ways.
The technological setup doesn’t have to be overwhelming, either. An agnostic IVR will connect to any payment processor or payment gateway; a cloud-based IVR does the same thing using APIs. While it’s impossible to avoid some payment processing fees, this means your contact center can serve customers over the phone and benefit from significant savings.
So how much can costs actually be reduced? Here are a couple case studies from our clients that address costs specifically:
- The Payment Service Network shifted from manually answering calls to implementing an IVR using our payment platform. This change actually accelerated the company’s growth because they could handle more calls with the same number of agents. It also expedited the payment process for customers and still saved several dollars per call over live agent assistance.
- MIC wanted to lower its average call handling and average hold times while also improving the customer experience. Using payment automation and our Voice Trends analytics suite, they achieved an 89-percent call containment rate for payment calls, which resulted in a 350-percent cost reduction as well as a better, streamlined customer experience. Their average cost per call involving a live agent was around $5, but the average cost per call using the payment app came to less than 15 cents. And by using an API-based IVR, there was no need to invest in additional IT infrastructure, nor did the company have to incur the cost of annual compliance audits.
Wondering What We Can Do For Your Contact Center?
Look in to what our pre-built Fuse+ payments app can do. Based on data from billions of phone calls, it’s optimized to deliver plenty of automation and customization options as well as a great customer experience. Straight out of the box, it allows your customers to pay bills over the phone using either a credit card or a bank account, which saves you weeks or even months of development time. You can also customize it however it best fits the needs of your customers and your business. It’s PCI-DSS compliant (level 1); in fact, the entire Fuse platform is PCI-compliant. Plum Voice is the only custom IVR vendor to offer this level of data security.
Ready to save money and allow for PCI compliant transactional calls? Try our cloud IVR software for free.