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What to look for & pitfalls to avoid when choosing a cashless vendor

There is no denying that Technology has made our lives a lot simpler. And there is no denying that new technology is enabling us to go cashless… Check out the most recent article on the UK and going cashless by clicking here.

The independent published, only last week that the UK is moving towards a cashless society and that non-cash payments are expected to overtake cash payments by consumers for the first time next year! With this is mind there is no denying that the future really will be a cashless one.

Whether you work in a government department, a multinational company or an educational institution, cashless technology is becoming an inseparable part of our lives and is constantly evolving.

So if you’re planning on taking the plunge and using new cashless technology in your organisation, we have some great tips on where to start and what to consider.

Can the supplier integrate the whole organisation — or even beyond?

  • Cashless solutions are more attractive to users if they work at more than one outlet, so the broader your system, the better your user buy-in will be. This, in turn, helps to keep as much spend as possible within the organisation.
  • Some vendors offer only one or two cashless ‘modules’, such as catering and/or copy/print. The fact that e-payments will increasingly replace cash means that you need to think medium to long term, not short term — or your investment will rapidly show up its limitations.
  • Look for a wide range of modules within the system (such as vending, laundromats, access control, room-booking, etc -).
  • You should also check that the system can integrate easily with third-party e-payment systems, such as any provided by a catering contractor and external systems such as local transport providers.
  • Your ideal vendor will offer you the choice of taking you cashless using only their own solution, from the ground up, or providing core elements of the system and then integrating with existing and/or third-party systems.

How ‘open’ is the vendor?

  • Your vendor should use common standards to facilitate integration and to help future-proof your solution:
  • Avoid proprietary technology or systems which can’t use a choice of protocols in important areas.
  • Alarm bells should ring if the system can’t integrate easily to Windows POS systems, or doesn’t use a common database format, for example.
  • Look for a system which uses SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) to assure easy integration between the cashless and other systems.
  • Mobile-phone apps used for verification or payment should run on the major mobile platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows Mobile.
  • And a good cashless system will handle most major payment providers (eg Worldpay, Streamline, Sage Pay, GlobalPAY, PayPal, EMV cards, etc).

How scalable is the system?

  • The capacity of your cashless system will depend in turn on the capacity of your server/s and your network, plus the load you place upon the system.
  • If your cashless solution isn’t scalable, it will grind to a halt when you hit a critical size, and you’ll need to do significant redevelopment work.
  • Look for a scalable system which can grow with your solution and with your institution, and ask potential system vendors to identify any likely bottlenecks in your organisation and what may need to be done to address them.
  • You should be able to add as many users and as many transactions, at as many points and outlets, via as many third-party system integrations, as you need.

How secure is the system?

  • Ensure that all parts of the solution are password protected and that they run on websites served over HTTPS.
  • All transactions should require user-identity verification involving ID tokens — whether RFID in a smartcard, NFC in a mobile phone, or biometrics (such as fingerprints or retina scans).
  • You should ensure that these protocols are already supported by your vendor’s system, or that there are definite plans to do so.
  • Check also that the software development kit (SDK) is fully secure.

Where will your server be?

  • Will the system be held in-house, or hosted? On premises servers are managed by the organisation, while hosted solutions will be managed by the vendor.
  • You may want to consider the differences when it comes to security and system administration, and to look at hire costs and costs per transaction.
  • Another factor may be staff capacity and buy-in within the IT function.

Can the system work with pre-existing & external data?

  • Ask how easily the vendors’ systems will link to databases such as your staff or student record system.
  • To what extent can the links between them be automated? Will the cashless system automatically access information about new and departed staff members, and adapt permissions accordingly.
  • Can the data exchanges be scheduled to avoid manual intervention?

Can you still support some cash & EMV payments?

No ‘cashless’ systems are, as yet, entirely cashless. To begin with, some applications (such as laundromats and vending machines) may be best running dual cash/cashless payment methods..

  • Senior senate staff may wish to use EMV cards when entertaining VIP guests in staff restaurants.
  • Therefore, check that your vendor can accommodate all the payment methods you want.

How many user-identification options are supported?

  • Smartcards will gradually be replaced as a verification method, so look for support for NFC or Bluetooth (usually on smartphones) and/or biometrics.
  • If the support isn’t currently there, look for a commitment to deliver it within a defined timeframe.

How many payment methods are supported?

  • Today, e-payment methods can include smartcards and mobile phone apps, but in future will include options such as smart watches and key fobs.
  • Commitment to a mobile phone application is essential in the short term, but check also that your vendors plan to support emerging technologies.
  • Then there’s the number of top-up methods: how flexible are the vendors’ solutions when it comes to the different ways in which staff or students can top up online?

For educational organisations - Can parents see transactions, if the student wants them to?

A more sophisticated system will provide a wide range of options at institution and user level. For example, the institution may wish to provide students with the option of whether to permit their parents to see their transaction history.

What level of support is available?

  • Look for a vendor who offers all the pre-sales support you need, because having absolute clarity about your project – and being ready to answer queries and concerns – will help to get all of your internal and external stakeholders on board.
  • As for post-sales support, compare the service level agreements on offer from the vendors to assure the level of service you need within a certain number of hours or days, depending on the level of urgency in each potential situation.

How will you handle card, balance & transaction issues?

It’s worth checking with your potential vendors how you’d handle situations such as the following:

  • Automatic issuing of new and replacement smartcards
  • Migrating legacy user accounts/balances and unique identifiers when transitioning from    one system to another
  • Transactions disputed by the user
  • Refunds and rebates (such as when unclaimed funds are left in user accounts after departure).

There is a lot to consider but with MonitorIT's solution we can help with the right answers.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can start your journey to a less cash environment why not watch our short video or contact our solutions team on 01494 565 066 or email solutions@monitorit.co.uk

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