Now that you’re accepting credit cards (you are accepting credit cards, aren’t you…?) have your customers caught on? If they have, my bet is that you’re now taking more credit card payments over the phone than you are in person. Am I right…?

Is there a problem with taking credit card payments by phone, you may ask? No, not necessarily, but as the volume of phone credit card payments increases, they can become a burden to your customer service staff. Consider the sequence of events of a typical telephone credit card payment transaction…

  • Customer calls to find out how much he owes. More than likely, he doesn’t have his account number
  • CSR looks up the account in the computer, tells the customer how much he owes and when the bill is due
  • Customer asks if he can pay by credit card over the phone
  • CSR answers “Yes, of course”
  • Customer locates his credit card and reads out his card number and expiration date
  • CSR scribbles credit card number and expiration date on a piece of paper
  • CSR takes the piece of paper to the credit card machine at the front counter and keys in the customer’s credit card number, expiration date and payment amount
  • CSR waits for approval and writes the approval number on the piece of paper
  • CSR returns to her desk and reads the approval number to the customer
  • Customer hangs up
  • CSR must now enter the payment into the system and shred the piece of paper with the customer’s credit card information to avoid a Red Flags issue

In the end, how much time did this entire process take…? Three minutes? Five minutes? Longer? It’s easy to see that as word spreads among your customers that they can pay by credit card over the phone, these few minutes per payment could evolve into a few hours (or more, depending on the size of your utility) on your busiest days.

Is there a better way?

Of course there is – or why else would I be writing about this topic?

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone systems allow the entire phone credit card payment process to be automated, resulting in improved efficiency for your office and more flexibility and security for your customers.

With an IVR phone payment system, your customers are no longer limited to paying during normal business hours – they can call at any time of the day or night to pay. Your customers can also feel safer about paying by credit card since they no longer have to risk giving their card number to another person over the phone. With an IVR phone payment system, they enter the credit card information directly on the phone keypad or speak the numbers.

Staff time drops from several minutes per payment to several minutes per day to import and balance the payment transactions for the day. With PhonePay IVR payment system, phone payments are entered directly into a payment batch, further eliminating the need to import a file each day. All that is required is to reconcile and update the previous day’s batch each morning.

I have compiled a Return on Investment (ROI) analysis that I’ve used for customers to determine if investing in an IVR phone payment system makes sense. If you are wondering if an IVR phone payment system would be cost effective for your organization, I can prepare the same ROI analysis for you.