People still need to talk

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Protecting the voice of the customer

The number of customers who still choose to pay by using the Mail Order Telephone Order (MOTO) channel rather than the internet is often underestimated. In the UK alone, 1.2 billion transactions are made via the telephone or post compared with only 850 million transactions online.

Telephone payments represent one in eight of the UK’s 9.6 billion credit and debit card transactions.  Furthermore, the average brick and mortar transaction is around £50 while the average value for post and telephone orders is over £140. It is a common but false belief that telephone and post-based sales will diminish as companies move their business from bricks and mortar to online. In fact the reverse is true.  As online business increases, businesses’ contact centres have to expand to cater for the online customers who, mid transaction, call a customer representative for help with a purchase. Addressing the security challenges of telephone payments is becoming increasingly important.

Regulations – necessary but expensive

While identifying fraudulent transactions has often been seen as the primary challenge in the fight against payment crime, it is more important to stop fraudulent access to card data in the first place. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has been designed to protect card data for all customers paying over the phone. Adopting PCI controls for telephone customers has proved particularly difficult however. This is because the numerous telephony and data networks - from voice recording to CRM - used by contact centres, all of which are inextricably linked to one another, create a huge infrastructure that has to be controlled.  Finally, since card data is also exposed to the agents themselves, the physical contact centre environment must be secured.  All of these areas require up to 286 PCI controls if they are exposed to card data, which can prove very expensive.

Take the contact centre out of the equation

The answer lies in treating the cause; we need to ensure that we do not expose card data to all these areas in the first place. Technology can help. While the agent and the customer are talking, rather than asking the customer to state their card details, the agent can ask the customer to enter the numbers using their telephone keypad. From here, the numbers can be sent directly to the customer’s bank, by-passing the contact centre and its technology infrastructure completely. As with online payments, no one else can hear the card details.  Unlike online payments, however, the agent is at hand to walk the customer through the transaction if they have any difficulty. This immediately improves customer satisfaction, as customers hate talking to machines. It is also intuitively understood by the customer that this mechanism protects them from identity theft. 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.

Use voice to boost sales

Businesses which have removed the burden of PCI controls from their voice payments can reap benefits from using the channel more effectively. Research by the UK’s Financial Services Authority (now the Financial Conduct Authority) showed that 35% of the general public shred their bank statements to protect themselves from identity theft. The second most reported protection measure, at 28%, was avoiding the verbal communication of credit and debit card details to contact centre agents. This provides an excellent opportunity for merchants to increase their contact centre sales closure rates by providing a secure voice channel where card data is not shared with agents. Many customers still don’t trust payments over the web, so there is an added opportunity to use voice for the last mile of the online channel. A “call me” button on the website not only offers a secure payment for customers over the phone, but also provides an excellent up-sell opportunity. Voice contact reduces the risk of a lost sale and provides an opportunity for higher profits.

The number of customers paying over the phone continues to grow in spite of all the predictions, and with this, the security challenge has grown too. Fortunately, the continued popularity of the telephone has attracted the right technology solutions to reduce the costs and risks of managing this security.  The customer’s voice is still strong and can also be secure. 

About Tim Critchley

Tim is CEO of Semafone and is an experienced director of technology start-ups.  He spent 6 years with database marketing specialist, Conduit Communications before co-founding Pogo Technology, an innovative start-up that launched one of the first web-browsing handheld devices in the UK through Carphone Warehouse. Prior to joining Semafone, Tim was chief operating officer at KnowledgePool Group, the UK's leading provider of managed learning services where he helped complete a successful turnaround in 3 years. Tim graduated from the London School of Economics and has an MBA from Manchester Business School.


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