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How Do IVR Payments Work for Call Centers?

Call centers perform a number of important business functions such as customer support, sales and accepting payments. Consumers want fast and efficient support, and phone support is still the most popular channel for this compared to every other medium. So, it’s important for businesses to focus valuable agent time on high touch customer interactions rather than on routine transactional calls.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) payments offers call centers a way to improve their operations, strengthen their card data security and achieve PCI compliance by automating the low-touch transactional work of accepting credit card payments by phone.

How Can IVR Payments Improve Your Call Center Operations?

  1. Reduce Call Handling Time - Automated IVR Payment systems let you remove the task of accepting credit card information from agents which shortens agent call handling times
  2. Decrease Hold Time - Hold time due to peak hours and seasonal demand can be reduced, without adding staff, by simply redirecting callers to an automated IVR Payments platform
  3. Reduce Abandoned Calls - The convenience of 24-7 self-serve IVR Payments allows your customers to pay right away, and without waiting on hold for an agent
  4. Cost Savings - Automated IVR Payment acceptance offers businesses a significant cost reduction over payment acceptance by a live agent
  5. Security and PCI Compliance - Automated IVR Payment acceptance let’s call centers reduce their PCI scope by removing their telephony platform, IT systems, agents and agent desktops from the payment process, shifting responsibility for cardholder information security to a third party, and achieving PCI compliance both quickly and cost effectivity

What IVR Payment Acceptance Solutions Are available for Call Centers?

Call centers operators can choose between two approaches for how they will employ IVR Payments in their own business:

  1. Agent-Assisted IVR Payments
  2. Self-Serve IVR Payments
Agent-Assisted IVR Payments is the ideal solution for call centers that want their agents to assist callers when paying. In this approach, your agents support the payment process up until it’s time to collect card data.

At this point the agent simply connects callers to the IVR Payment line, and the agent then exits these calls. This allows your agent to return to available status for other callers. If your business process requires that the same agent provide further assistance to callers after their payments, then callers can be re-connected after their payments are completed.

  1. Your agents carry out identification of the customer and initiate the connection to the IVR Payments secure line
  2. Your agents now enter information about the customer that is required for your specific payment process, or your Call Manager/CRM can be integrated to transmit this information
  3. The Agent now connects the customer to the IVR Payments line and exits the call – this descopes your Agent and the Agent desktop for PCI-DSS. The PCI scope of the call center’s voice and data network can also potentially be reduced depending upon your specific configuration and capabilities – please consult with a PCI QSA for how to do this.
  4. The customer now enters their cardholder data and it is transmitted directly to the payment gateway for processing with your business’s own payment provider
  5. The payment gateway transmits the transaction data to the IVR Payments platform
  6. The payment gateway or the IVR Payments platform can now reconcile the transaction results back to your business systems

Agent Assist IVR Payments removes the acceptance of cardholder data from the contact center environment and also introduces some efficiencies into the call handling process. Call centers that need an agent supported payment process that is PCI compliant should give serious consideration to deploying this approach to IVR Payments.

Self-Serve IVR Payments is an effective approach for call centers that want to completely remove both their agents and infrastructure from handling payment transactions. With this approach, callers connect to the IVR Payment line for a fully self-service payment process.

  • Your company can configure your auto-attendant to connect customers who wish to pay directly to the IVR Payment line, bypassing entirely the wait for an available agent

This allows customers to make payments 24-7, even when your call center is closed, and it makes the routine request of paying both faster and easier for your customers.

  • For situations where a payment request arises during an agent interaction, the agent can simply transfer the caller to the IVR Payment line and then exit the call

This allows your agent to quickly return to available status for another call. If callers require further assistance after paying, they can select the option to transfer to an agent.

Self-Serve IVR Payments reduce hold time for all customers by re-allocating your agent time to handling more high-touch inquiries. The payment process with this approach works like this:

  1. Your Agents OR your phone system connect the customer to the IVR Payments line and exit the call – the customer is now securely connected to the IVR, upstream from the call center’s telephony environment, so nothing in the call center is left in scope for PCI-DSS
  2. Your customers now enter information that is required for their identification
  3. Your CRM can be configured to transmit any information needed by the IVR Payments for your payment process, such as for balance presentment to the customer
  4. The customer now enters their cardholder data and it is transmitted directly to the payment gateway for processing via your business’s own payment provider
  5. The payment gateway transmits the transaction data to the IVR Payments service
  6. The payment gateway or the IVR Payments service can now reconcile the transaction results back to your CRM software

Self-Serve IVR Payments removes both cardholder data and the entry of other personal information from the contact center environment entirely and it reduces hold times for all customers. Call centers that want to mitigate daily or seasonal fluctuations in call volumes or who want to move to a PCI compliant process should give serious consideration to deploying this approach to IVR Payments.

Both of these IVR Payment methods will enable your call center to reduce PCI scope, risk, and move towards PCI compliance with a significant reduction of cost and effort. They can be deployed quickly, with little or no capital cost, and are compatible with virtually all telecom platforms, CRMs and payment processors. No matter whether your agents work from home, or in your call center, these solutions can significantly reduce the workload on your agents while increasing customer satisfaction and meeting all the latest PCI guideline for securing consumer’s credit card data.

Be sure to also read our informative article on PCI compliance for call centers!