In the latest instalment of our eCommerce industry executive interview series we spoke to Rob Crutchington, Director at Encoded, about the company, the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, the implementation of Secure Customer Authentication and frictionless payment methods…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
Encoded offers a range of card payment solutions for all contact centre channels. Our complete payment suite includes IVR Payments, Agent Assisted Payments, eCommerce Payments, Mobile Apps and our latest PayByLink solution. Encoded is also a Payments Gateway.
We work with contact centres and many large brands to provide secure payment solutions that free up valuable agent time, allowing them to focus on customer service, more complex enquiries and revenue generating activities.
What have been the biggest challenges the eCommerce/Payments industry has faced over the past 12 months?
Of course, Covid has been one of the biggest challenges for all businesses. For those contact centres taking payments, the new way of working had serious implications. Suddenly everything changed with people working at home. It became more difficult to maintain a managed environment where security could be controlled and any issues escalated quickly as and when necessary.
With homeworking the environment couldn’t be managed in the same way, compliance became a challenge and we saw a shift towards e-commerce. While a secure link and a ‘soft phone’ could be quickly adopted, the network, an agent’s PC and 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.
And what have been the biggest 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, I don’t think contact centres will 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 interactions.
What is the biggest priority for the eCommerce/Payments industry in 2021?
The biggest priority has definitely been the implementation of Secure Customer Authentication (SCA) for 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 by next March 2022. I think the FCA will expect companies to continue 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.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?
I think we will continue to see a shift towards e-commerce. 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 in October will support this trend.
With this greater payment flexibility, I also think that we will see a necessary step-up in security, with more two factor authentication processes in place to validate cardholders’ details across all payment channels.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?
From my viewpoint I think a blend of services like pay-by-link 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. Opting into the new apps and services gives people more control over their finances. 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.
In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?
Having a Digital First Strategy will be top of the agenda. If a company is processing or accepting a customer’s card data, they will opt for a digital first solution. This approach will go beyond the ability to check balances and make payments to more complex tasks and the entire customer journey. For example, fintech companies such as Monzo, Starling and Revolut have digital only propositions offering services through digital channels without manual intervention. The traditional ways of accepting payments will disappear as digitally secure forms of payment take precedence with new apps and open banking. Open banking has already given customers and SMEs greater market choice and greater control over their money and data in a secure environment, which will only continue to increase in popularity.
Which person in, or associated with, the eCommerce/Payments industry would you most like to meet?
Mark Carney ex-Governor of the Bank of England. I suspect he has many stories to tell and no longer being Governor, he might feel more inclined to tell them.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the eCommerce/Payments sector?
I am always impressed by the way the payment industry continues 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.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
For me it is signing a new customer and developing a long-term relationship with them. I always remember where I was when we first got the go ahead from new customers – from the smaller ones to some of the larger brands like BMW, Toyota and Samsung Electronics. Whoever the customer, I still get a thrill when working with them to help solve their payment challenges.
And what’s the most challenging?
With the payment industry constantly changing and new legislation, it certainly keeps us on our toes. This year, however, I think dealing with the Covid pandemic has been the most challenging. I worked in the office alone for a lot of the time and really missed the energy of having colleagues in the same room. There is normally a real buzz working alongside bright people and it has just not been the same with everyone working remotely.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The saying “Always surround yourself with people better than yourself”, attributed to Henry Ford, resonates with me. At Encoded we have built a brilliant team of people over the years and I really value the different skills and experiences that they bring to their roles. I think I have appreciated this even more over the last twelve months when the team has worked consistently hard under difficult circumstances.