Due to the health crisis of early 2020 and the massive change occurring all over the world, it’ll likely be some time before most businesses and industries have customers who’re comfortable handling their shopping and business needs as they’ve traditionally done in years past.
Will things return to normal? And if so, how long could it take for customers to come back? Similar tragic events have shown that it can take some time for economic normalcy to return. An example of how this is a possibility can be seen in the slow return to normal levels for the airline industry following 9/11 in 2001. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, passenger air travel didn’t return to pre-event levels until around July 2004.
The COVID-19 health crisis has placed a spotlight on how things are done worldwide and across social and economic interactions, and this will likely mean a need for a new set of much needed safety changes for the payment industry.
Previously, payment safety has mostly been focused on securing against fraud, but now there’s a clearly defined need for health security and safety for both the individual business user and the paying customer alike.
With a focus on social distancing, personal protection, and ongoing cleanliness, the use of mobile payment systems (mPOS) over traditional countertop or pole-mounted devices is worth serious consideration to ensure a healthier environment that will prompt customers to return.
According to a March 2020 Consumer Reports article, surface areas in general are reservoirs for viruses, bacteria and other germs. Touching contaminated surfaces, and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth can transfer infections to the body leading sometimes to severe illnesses.
With the risk of passing germs, from the common cold to influenza and the recent COVID-19, it’s not only important to limit how close a retail or other business worker comes to a customer, but it’s equally important to keep clean and limit access to the devices used to process payments.
In many cases, regardless of how payment is made, it still commonly needs to be handled by using a non-cash payment item from the customer; for example, card swipe, chip and pin, and tap to pay. All of these involve some form of direct contact with a payment device, and often leads to touching of the terminal’s keypad or casing in some way.
A locked down payment terminal on a pole or countertop is a veritable magnet for germs by its very nature of being a focal point for business. Because nearly all customers end up there eventually, a payment device is a critical hotspot for the spread of germs. This is not an easy thing to combat to the level now necessary, especially in a busy environment that may not allow for easy and frequent sanitization of devices.
The obvious solution is to promote ‘social distancing’ with payment devices through the use of mobile payments that are tethered to a roving employee. Benefits of this are:
- Less cluster of customers at a single spot or traditional close-quarters waiting line
- Limiting what a purchaser touches, including the payment device, counter spaces, etc.
- Allowing the worker to still keep variable space between the customer(s) and his or herself throughout the transaction process
- Greater awareness of potential sources of contamination to devices/spaces due to personal responsibility
- Easier method of sanitizing and disinfecting devices between customers
Social distancing of both people and devices is an easy enough thing to do with a strong mobile payment strategy. Providing greater control of the devices used and the ongoing circumstances of how order-takers personally handle each sale can tip the balance toward a healthier experience.
Social distancing is a great start, but is only part of the solution in safeguarding payments in today’s more health safety-conscious world. While the earlier point protects both the worker and customer, there are still significant concerns for the worker.
The amount of time employees may be working with mobile devices, long term proximity to customers throughout a shift, and the potential risk of sharing limited equipment are additional factors to consider.
With the right mPOS solution, that potential risk may be minimized. A few possible steps to take include:
- A personal hand or shoulder strap that’s detachable from devices and can remain with each individual worker minimizes risk of transmittal of illnesses to other workers using the same devices
- For shared devices, a thorough sanitization of the devices prior to handoff to other workers
- When presenting the device to a customer, holding the equipment at a distance or angle from the worker so the customer is not too close or directly facing the worker
Procedures like the ones listed above, coupled with the use of other select personal protection items like aprons and/or gloves would go a long way to reducing and minimizing the risk of germ transmittal in working with customers in the payment arena.
As mentioned before, the payment terminals themselves will need to be cleaned much more often. This is true of both mPOS devices and their pole or tablet-mounted cousins, but by having the device tied to a person rather than a physical location, it allows units to be kept cleaner and watched for risk factors more easily.
Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Workers on duty with direct responsibility for the devices can keep a better eye on cleaning situations that may need attention
- Personal possession of devices avoids distractions that could lead to diminished safety
- Cleaning of each device can be done faster and more often
Ideally, businesses will need to be more aware of their employees, their equipment and their cleanliness. The best way to handle this is through a more one-on-one mentality rather than the traditional line-based counter sales model used over the years.
Order-takers who are tasked with making the sale with the customer can easily assess risk to themselves, devices, and the clients they’re seeing. If a customer seems ill, then attentive behavior can be adjusted to meet the specific safety needs of that client and the worker more easily in a mobile capacity.
Similarly, being no longer tethered to a counter and fixed position, the worker is able to keep awareness on the client situation in front of them and make position or distance decisions as necessary.
Lastly, between transactions and customers, personal control of their devices allows workers to use knowledge of any risk factors they may have identified during a transaction and take necessary precautions to ensure proper cleaning of devices.
Besides the actual safety increase from the cleaning, this will have the added benefit of allowing the next client to have a greater sense of security when making their transaction.
The healthy rise of mPOS
As businesses turn their attention to the future, the need for changes in the way they do things will become paramount. As the points stated above have illustrated, health safety and security need to be at the forefront of that attention… as they very much should be.
mPOS solutions will have a significantly real role to play in assuring returning customers that it’s not dangerous to come out and shop, while at the same time providing workers with tools to ensure their continued health and safety.
-- Beau Keyes, VP of Marketing & Business Development
As experts in mobile payment mobility solutions, we have unique insights into how mPOS can be coordinated in all manner of industries. Reach out to us to learn more!