Contactless – what’s the merchant etiquette?

November 3, 2016

The contactless revolution is not only upon us, it is gaining momentum every day says Barry Bevan from our client, Thames Card Technology. As of May 2016, a total of 89.9m contactless cards are in circulation in the UK, with almost £1.9 billion spent that month (UK Cards Association). Shops, bars and other retailers that have embraced the technology are already benefiting from increased check-out speed and customer convenience, not to mention less sales being abandoned and streamlined operational costs.

If retailers fail to create an environment where the customer feels in control, though, these advantages fall at the first hurdle. With this in mind, here’s a few tips for retailers to ensure they get contactless acceptance right at the point of sale…

Loud and proud

It’s lunch time on the high street. Shops are full and time is precious. A fickle shopper is on the hunt for a bite to eat and has identified two similar-priced options. Which will win? With a glance at their watch, our time-poor friend can’t queue behind people digging for change and opts for the shop that shouts: “We accept contactless”.

Customers shouldn’t have to ask if you accept contactless. Can a sign go in the window or door? Where is footfall highest? Can the payment terminal go on the counter with information on contactless? People are still getting used to contactless and they need to know they can use it, otherwise many won’t and queues will linger.

Get the interaction right

The most important bit; interaction between cashier and consumer. A quick Google throws up confusion and frustration in equal measure from shoppers. All too often the terminal is out of sight or reach of the customer. This causes a couple of common issues.

Firstly, some cashiers seem to guard the terminal and are requesting that customers hand over their card. This should never happen. In the grand (not so) old days of chip & PIN, this was not as much of an issue as the payment had to be authenticated. Now, some see handing over a contactless card as tantamount to proffering their open wallet.

This leads me to the next faux pas. Customers need to check the value of the transaction before the card is tapped. If their card is taken from them, it can easily be tapped and returned without the customer having any idea what is being taken from their account.

Both of these scenarios are easy to avoid so that the consumer feels secure and in control. Here’s a step-by-step example of how a best practice transaction with a hand-held contactless POS might go:

  1. Cashier, having scanned the items: “That’s a total of £23.56, please.”
  2. Customer, keeping their card in-hand: “I’ll pay with contactless.”
  3. Cashier, after keying the amount into the POS and handing it over: “Here you go, please check the amount before tapping the card.”
  4. Customer, having confirmed the price and tapped their card: “Thank you, can I have a receipt please?”
  5. Cashier, taking the terminal back from the customer: “Certainly, here you go.”

Communication breeds confidence

As you can see, much of it comes down to communication. Customer confidence will be enhanced by the vendor highlighting that contactless payment is available, sharing the correct price and following best practice. And confidence will increase usage and spend value.

Thousands of retailers across the UK are getting this etiquette right. A little staff training and knowledge sharing is all that is needed to ensure a consistent user experience and maximize the benefits of contactless.

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