Accepting Payments During Covid-19

As we are adjusting to business during Covid-19 the way we interact with our employees and customers has changed, writes Marci Gagnon. “Not only do we need to create new operational processes to keep employees and customers safe, we need to rethink how we accept certain types of payment,” Gagnon says. Here, the vice president of strategic alliances for Qualpay offers some tips on how to minimize risk in payment processing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 is “generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets.” While information is still being collected, there is evidence that it may be possible for a person to become infected with Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

As an essential industry in the new Covid-19 world, we must keep our distance but carry on. We now ask additional questions before making a service call; has anyone in the residence been ill? Is there a separate entrance for the technician to enter?  Since droplets can last on surfaces for an extended period, we should also take precautions accepting payments.

The CDC and National Institutes of Health have cautioned that Covid-19 can live on plastic for up to three days and on paper for up to four days. Given that, we have been fielding questions on the best way to protect drivers and office workers while processing payments made with plastic and paper. Here are some answers.

  • Online payments: Offer online payments via your company website. Instruct drivers and techs to direct customers to use the online option. Most energy companies have some form of an online payment option, even if it is a simple hosted checkout page. It is a safer than having a driver or CSR touch a card or check. There is no additional cost, and the technicians can be on location until assured the payment is complete. Encourage subscription plans or stored payment methods. This way you can have payment information saved and can ask the customer if you can bill the card on file.

If you have been thinking about setting up a customer payment portal now is the time. Portals can allow customers to make payments as well as track invoices and payment history. Most are integrated with your backend software for streamlined reporting and provide additional features such as invoicing.

  • Accept ACH also known as eChecks: During Covid-19 accepting ACH is safer. It costs roughly the same and will limit having employees touching paper that could be contaminated, and it limits bank runs. ACH can be accepted in an online environment so companies can still take advantage of the savings. Energy companies can also accept a check over the phone if a customer does not have internet access.
  • Payment Links: Set up online payment links tied to invoices. If you do not currently have a customer-facing portal, this is an easy way to accept payments.  Customers can click on a link or enter a URL and be directed to a simple page to make payment. Customers can pay via card or check. Do it in a secure environment. Payment links are a service offered without charge and should be streamlined with most updated payment systems.
  • In-person payments: Sometimes, folks just like to come into the office! For locations that are open to the public, limit the reps having to physically touch a credit card or check as much as possible. If your company’s location is open, it might not be a bad idea to purchase an inexpensive tablet and direct customers to enter their payment into the device. This device can be sanitized after each use. Adding mobile or tablets payment is easy and your payment company should be able to set this up with limited expenditure.

For Qualpay’s Covid-19 updates, visit: https://www.qualpay.com/announcements;tag=covid-19.

On a personal note, we at Qualpay are wishing this crisis passes quickly. We want to add our deep gratitude for all essential businesses as well as the health workers and first responders. Stay safe everyone.

Marci Gagnon is vice president of strategic alliances for Qualpay. Qualpay provides processing solutions to fuel delivery and service businesses. Contact Marci Gagnon at marci@qualpay.com or visit https://www.qualpay.com/industry/utility-and-energy.

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