Digital First: The Future of Card Payments

Mobile payment

Contact centres are complex places at the best of times with multiple systems and fluctuating customer demand. 

Add remote and hybrid working into the mix and things have become even more uncertain when it comes to providing easy and secure payment methods. Frictionless payments and protection from fraudulent transactions are priorities for both contact centres and customers.

Recent challenges have meant a change in strategy

The pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges for businesses over the past couple of years.  For those contact centres taking payments, new ways of working had serious implications. Suddenly everything changed with people working at home. It became more difficult to maintain an environment where security could be controlled and issues escalated quickly as and when necessary.

With homeworking the environment couldn’t be managed in the same way as before, PCI DSS compliance became a challenge and we saw a shift towards e-commerce. While a secure link and a ‘soft phone’ could be quickly adopted, an agent’s PC and working environment were outside of the organisation’s control. This has led to many companies adopting a ‘Digital First Strategy’ – pushing customers to use digital channels for communication and payments where possible.

 With challenges come opportunities

This ‘perfect storm’ of agents working from home and increased e-commerce has been a fantastic opportunity for some companies. While it has provided a challenge for the MOTO (mail order telephone order) sector, the companies that have been able to implement a digital first strategy, and provide their customers with alternative payment choices, have been the ones to prosper.

However, contact centres will not disappear. The gold standard of customer service will always be the personal touch and talking to people. Companies that adopt a digital first strategy will need to think carefully about their customer service goals before choosing new technologies to be sure that they support and not hinder customer interactions.

The priorities ahead

The biggest priority is now the implementation of Secure Customer Authentication (SCA), for payment transactions to comply with the latest version of PSD2. It has been put back slightly, again because of Covid, but is due to be enforced in March this year, when the FCA will expect companies to take robust action to reduce the risk of fraud. If organisations can apply SCA to an e-commerce transaction – they should do so now.

Frictionless payment methods will definitely also increase – Alternative Payment Methods (APMs) such as Apple Pay and Google Pay will become more commonplace. We’ve already seen PayPal become more mainstream, particularly in Europe. The increase in the contactless payment amount to £100 supports this trend.

With this greater payment flexibility, there will need to be a step-up in security, with more two factor authentication processes in place to validate cardholders’ details across all payment channels.

A blend of services like paybylink options and open banking will have a big impact. Open banking has already brought financial and consumer policies into the 21st century and created a competitive environment in both banking and payment technology. Open banking helps customers manage and make more of their money by allowing secure access to their banking and other financial data. Using new apps and services provides people with more control over their finances and the security and speed of these technologies will drive adoption. We have already seen younger customers, familiar with using their phone and apps, see the benefits and flexibility that they offer.

Looking ahead

Having a digital first strategy will be top of any agenda. If a company is processing or accepting customer card data, it will look for a one touch payment solution.  This approach will go beyond the ability to check balances and make payments to more complex tasks and the entire customer journey.

Several new fintech companies already have digital only propositions offering services through digital channels without manual intervention.

 The payment industry will also continue to work together to tackle fraud.  The landscape is constantly changing, but the payments industry is always introducing innovations, adopting new technologies and ways to combat criminal activity to prevent customers having their card data and personal identity information stolen.  This momentum will keep going with more online and distance shopping to keep contact centres busy and payment service providers on our toes.

About the Author

Rob Crutchington is Managing Director of Encoded.

Rob Crutchington MD EncodedEncoded is a leading Payment Service Provider and pioneer of new and innovative secure payment solutions for contact centres.  Encoded offers a range of card payment solutions designed to help organisations comply with PCI DSS, GDPR and the newly introduced Payment Services Directive (PSD2).

Encoded’s solutions are trusted by many of the world’s leading brands including Samsung, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Virgin, as well as a host of UK utility companies such as Green Star Energy and Severn Trent Water.  Solutions include:  Agent Assisted Card Payments, E-Commerce Payments, IVR Payments, Mobile Apps, PayByLink Mobile Payments and Encoded Gateway Services.  For further information please visit

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