Efficiency through technology
Government cuts are beginning to trickle through as George Osborne swings his axe in what is destined to be just the first of many blows, as the coalition government does its best to return our national finances to the black.
Throughout the election it was impossible for any political party to avoid tricky questions about when and where the cuts would take place. Politicians were, at best, vague about their answers despite the media pushing them to be specific. Now we are beginning to get some answers.
Although details are still sketchy, it is clear that the pressure on the public sector is increasing and, as the screws continue to tighten, it will become incumbent upon all public sector organisations to make savings and efficiencies wherever possible to meet their obligations. Many of these savings will inevitably be painful.
For many organisations, however, there is an area in which technology can be used to achieve painless savings through using modern technology to handle the collection of funds by Direct Debit and card payments. The application of this technology can make a real difference to any organisation – council, school, leisure centre, library – that has the need to collect payments for its services.
Any company that stores or transmits any cardholder data electronically must be Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) compliant. Similarly, any company taking Direct Debit payments must have a Service User Number (SUN). The easiest and quickest way of taking ad-hoc payments from customers is using a card transaction, however, achieving PCI-DSS can be an expensive, laborious process. Collecting regular amounts from customers is best done by Direct Debit, but obtaining your own SUN can be equally complex.
A secure solution is available that takes away this headache by providing all your payment services off site, complying fully with the regulations but removing the administrative burden from you. What’s more, the solution uses your existing PCs and broadband connections to take payments quickly and accurately, increasing efficiency and giving you the ability to process more payments during the day, without the need for capital investment.
Using a secure virtual terminal system, such as that offered by RSM2000, is very easy. You simply log on to the secure webpage using a standard internet browser and your unique login details and you can be processing customer payments in minutes.
There is no need for specialist software or expensive staff training and all customer data is held within the secure host environment, meaning the PCI-DSS compliance is much simpler. Other benefits include:
• Full reporting facilities in a range of formats
• 24/7 secure system access
• Multi-currency support
• Support for Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Solo, Delta and American Express
• Automated regular payment facility without need to re-enter card data each time.
Direct Debit services
Direct Debit is the preferred method for collecting regular payments. It is a well established, trusted and convenient way for people to pay their bills without worrying about missing a payment. Standing order payments are fine when the amounts being paid rarely change. However, if the amount changes frequently, it’s vitally important for the supplier to maintain control over the transaction using Direct Debit.
The benefits of Direct Debit for all organisations are compelling:
• Improved cashflow
• Easier budgeting
• Reduced bank charges
• Simple to change collection amounts
• Reduced debt collection costs
• Improved customer retention
• Simpler control of customer payments
These benefits make Direct Debit a very sensible and attractive option for most companies. Banks too are very keen for their account holders to collect funds by Direct Debit but they are not always so willing to set them up with a facility. They usually ask to see three years’ accounts, which might not always be available, may require an unlimited liability warranty, and they charge high fees too.
To combat the obvious drawbacks, yet retain all the benefits, many companies nowadays are using a payment services company, such as RSM2000, to provide the Direct Debit facility whether or not they have their own SUN.
Organisations with their own sun
If your organisation already has its own SUN you can, of course, go directly to your bank or BACS bureau to handle Direct Debit payments. However, by choosing a service through a payment services company you can both decide the level of service required and benefit from the highly competitive rates achievable through extended buying power. The system requires no specialist software and no specialist staff training. Payments are made directly into an organisation’s bank and charges are modest.
When using a payment service company you may expect a range of management and reporting tools to help you manage Direct Debit payments in an efficient manner and budget more effectively.
These may include:
• New instruction submission by AUDDIS (Automated Direct Debit Instruction Service) enabling organisations to send new Direct Debit instructions to their customers’ banks electronically instead of in paper format
• Collection files submission
• Access to reports 24/7
• Automated collections
• E-mail alerts for cancellations, amendments, unpaids, etc.
• Monthly invoicing of charges
• Full database management
• Collections dates of choice
• Easy reconciliation of payments
• Dedicated customer support team
If your organisation doesn’t have its own SUN a payment services company such as RSM2000 can offer a facilities management service that provided Direct Debit facilities without requiring you to apply to your bank. The company will do this by applying for a unique SUN for each customer backed by its own guarantee. The company will handle all the paperwork and gain the necessary approvals for each customer to operate under Direct Debit rules. This enables organisations to sign up their customers for Direct Debit payments – on paper forms, by telephone or online – with minimal delay, with no tiresome form filling, and without the need to provide the usual guarantees.
An increasing amount of business is traking place online as time-strapped customers look to complete purchases of goods and services at a single visit to their home or work PC. Organisations having their own SUN or using a facilities management service may choose to allow their customers to set up Direct Debit payments using securely hosted web pages. These pages can be linked seamlessly to an organisation’s own website and branded accordingly to provide the customer with a complete transaction apparently from a single source. The web pages can be configured to each customer’s requirements to include any relevant information such as data protection statements or Gift Aid. Services typically include simple payment screens for customers, clear visibility of transactions, and affiliate tracking.
Nobody is looking forward to the effects of the government cuts that are already becoming a reality and are likely to become more onerous at least for the next few years. Public sector organisations will not only have an increased responsibility to avoid waste and operate as efficiently as possible in the future, it will become a practical necessity. One way of achieving those economies is with the judicious and practical application of technology to increase efficiency and help provide a better service for the tax-paying public.
By taking an enlightened approach to streamlining payment services, the public sector can help lead the way to greater efficiency demonstrating that it is serious about reducing waste and improving productivity in the long term.