Payment Pendulum in Contact Centers

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Patrick Brown's picture
President IntraNext Systems

Patrick Brown has served as President of IntraNext Systems since its inception. Patrick specializes in client consultation, and the development and deployment of customized Computer Telephony...

  • Member since 2018
  • 3 items added with 5,737 views
  • May 9, 2019 9:04 am GMT

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-05 - Customer Care, click here for more refers to a pendulum as “something that tends to move from one position, condition, etc., to the opposite extreme and then back again”.  Telephone-based payment handling in contact centers is like a pendulum that swings between compliance and customer experience in an effort to minimize risk and potential Payment Card Industry (PCI) challenges while upholding customer service levels.  Contact centers have tried to achieve both but have at times sacrificed one for the other.  

While we were at CS Week in Phoenix, a frequent topic was how to swing the customer experience pendulum back for in-house payments while mitigating PCI challenges.

Over the years we have seen the payment pendulum swing from agent-assisted, to IVR only payments, to third party handling and everything and every combination in-between.  Exploring every combination of the above would be repetitious, but we can certainly look at a few of the technologies and their impacts on compliance and customer service. 

Contact centers that accept agent-assisted payments have relied on pause and resume technology and/or encrypted keypads for nearly a decade.  This is a widely accepted practice and is a PCI compliance method to handle payments.  However, on occasion when recorders are not paused (either automatically or manually), recordings must be “scrubbed” or manipulated so that sensitive data is purged from the recordings.   Scrubbing recordings can be a timely and labor-intensive practice.   Keypads are an added hardware expense for contact centers.

A solution to alleviate the time burden of scrubbing recordings, risk of missing a recording, and the risk of agents being exposed to cardholder data, contact centers swung the pendulum away from agent-assisted payments to the self-help IVR channel.  When agents are assisting customers and it is time to take a payment, the caller is often transferred to an IVR.  Handling payments through an IVR has helped contact centers accomplish three goals:

  • Remove pause/resume inefficiencies
  • Remove risk from agents exposed to data
  • Minimize PCI scope in data centers

The above-mentioned goals are achieved utilizing this payment channel; however, there are some unintended consequences:

  • Call abandonment
  • Customer dissatisfaction
  • Increased call volume with unsuccessful IVR payments

It is these unintended consequences that have led contact center leadership teams to re-think their strategy and swing the pendulum back, or find a happy medium, to where agents can assist callers with payments in a PCI compliant and secure way.  The updated supplement, “Protecting Telephone-Based Payment Card Data”, from the PCI Security Standards Council has helped to stimulate this conversation.

It is important to mention that although some customers prefer the self-help channel, many do not.  In a recent article on, it is stated that nearly 50% of respondents prefer a human agent when it comes to complex inquiries.   Depending on the study, I’ve seen that number anywhere between 45% – 70%.  Regardless of which study we follow, the number represents a large enough customer base to warrant addressing the issue.  Risk and customer service are defined differently by every business and what works for one may not be the right answer for another.  

IntraNext Systems specializes in agent efficiency tools and PCI PA-DSS validated applications for secure agent-assisted payment transactions.

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