Customer-facing businesses are always looking for ways to streamline their operations. A streamlined process — such as how a business processes a payment — results in a better customer experience and, thus, greater customer satisfaction and potential repeat sales. Not only that, faster and more efficient transactions usually lead to lower costs and, in some cases, higher sales.
If you run a retail operation, such as a restaurant or an independent store, a relatively simple way to streamline the payment transaction process is to introduce integrated card payments. Executed correctly with cutting-edge technology, such a solution can speed up the customer’s experience, reduce administrative costs and translate into a higher-than-average hourly transaction rate.
What Is an Integrated Card Payment System?
When electronic card payments were first introduced, the process of handling credit card payments became much quicker, but there was a disconnect between the card terminal and the cash register. Incidentally, many businesses still operate a card payment system separate from their cash register or ePOS system.
Today, more and more businesses are switching to an integrated card payment system. Put simply, the cashier processes the transaction on the register as normal, and the amount due for payment is sent directly to the card reader. There’s no need for the cashier to re-enter the amount; the customer simply inserts his or her card or utilises the contactless option. The ePOS system and the card payment system work as one.
What Are the Different Types of Integrated Card Payment Solution?
The two different types of card payment solutions include stand alone, integrated and semi-integrated — all of which offer their own various challenges and benefits to merchants.
The stand alone solution is an isolation of the credit card machine and the ePOS cash register that doesn’t communicate with any other systems. It’s a rudimentary solution that prolongs the transaction process. The cashier totals the transaction on the register and then needs to re-enter the amount for payment on a separate card machine.
A stand alone system is not connected to anything, so there is no chance of malicious access from a third party and little chance of data being lost. But the time required to manage stand alone systems can be cumbersome, as each one requires its own end-of-day procedure.
A fully integrated card payment solution seamlessly combines the cash register and card payment elements in a single process. When the total has been calculated, the amount due is automatically sent to the card reader. There’s no need to re-enter the amount. Additionally, the card payments show up in the ePOS system’s end-of-day reports — which makes auditing and reconciliations easier and quicker.
Semi-integrated card payments are a halfway house between the fully integrated solution and the stand alone option. In many cases, this system is used as a cheap and quick way to streamline the card payment process using existing hardware. The data isn’t sent to the merchant’s back office system, which reduces the PCI scope. The customer does not need to wait for the cashier to enter the total into the credit card payment system; however, reconcilliation isn’t streamlined.
The Two Main Card Integration Applications
Pay at the Table
Designed specifically for table-service restaurants, a “pay at the table” application makes the payment process quicker and easier for both the server and the customer. The bill is printed at the terminal and taken to the table. Once the bill has been split and a gratuity has been added (if applicable), payment for the food can be taken at the table using a portable card-reading device. The table can then be closed immediately, without the need to return to the main terminal.
Pay at the Counter
The “pay at the counter” option is designed for retail stores, cafes and service-based establishments such as hair salons. The goods or services are entered into the ePOS terminal, and the total is automatically displayed on the card machine. At this point, the customer takes over the transaction — ensuring cashier errors are eradicated.
What Are the Benefits of Integrated Card Payments?
Integrated card payments benefit both the customer and the business. For example, as the cashier doesn’t have to manually enter the amount due on the card machine, there’s a reduced risk of miskeyed transactions. This prevents customers from being over-charged and ensures you’re never left out of pocket on an item.
Other benefits of integrated card payment systems include:
- Comply with PCI DSS standards on card security — encrypted credit/debit card data never comes into contact with your systems.
- Turnover more restaurant tables each day, thanks to reduced transaction times.
- Reduce checkout times at cash registers, and grow sales as a result.
- Process refunds more quickly and with greater visibility.
- Quicker and more accurate cash reconciliation.
- Easier to use with an omni-channel payment system.
While there are a few circumstances where a semi-integrated or standalone card payment solution might be the most suitable (complex table service environments), fully integrated systems can help your business’ profitability in a number of ways.