DTMF masking doesn’t just enable secure keypad payment by phone, it also offers a much better customer experience

The decision to switch to DTMF masking in order to take secure keypad payments by phone is often presented as something that’s for the benefit of the organization taking the payments. What’s often overlooked is the fact that switching to DTMF masking also offers significant benefits to end- customers.

Indeed, our own research shows that many client companies make the initial switch driven by the need to comply with PCI DSS guidelines, but quickly find that DTMF masking means they’re able to offer a much-improved service experience to their own customers. Put simply, the evidence suggests that customers actively prefer this way of paying by phone. There are several reasons why this is the case.

Customers are concerned about the security of telephone payments

Consumer concerns about the risks of paying merchants by phone in the MOTO (mail order/telephone order) environment are greater than ever, to the extent that almost two thirds now say that there are times when they don’t buy something because of security concerns – a proportion that has risen by almost 20% to 63% in just two years.

Similarly, 31% of consumers now say that they never make payments by phone, up from just 19% who said the same in 2016. It’s also clear that consumers are increasingly reluctant to hand over their card details, with 65% saying they are reluctant to make payments over the phone and 60% saying the risk of call center fraud stops them making payments by phone. Companies that don’t address this issue begin to run the risk that consumers will simply take their business elsewhere.

DTMF masking reassures customers that their card details are secure

Our consumer research shows that this is something that consumers worry about a lot. They do not like having to give their card details to another person and they worry (rightly) that this process isn’t always secure. When a company switches to DTMF masking it’s a clear signal to their customers that they take card security seriously. Customers understand that DTMF masking offers them much more security than any of the other ways of taking telephone payments they may have experienced before.

Our own clients’ experiences back this up. Carlos Moreno Tobon of Locus Telecommunications told us “An added benefit [of DTMF masking] is the customers’ perception. Obviously, they feel a lot better because they no longer have to speak their card details over the phone. They no longer have to wonder if their card is going to be compromised. It gives them a good sense of security that their card is being handled with no human interaction.”  Feedback from Miele’s customers when they started using DTMF masking backs this up too: “Oh OK, that’s a good idea – it’s nice to know my card details are kept safe”;  “I wish more companies handled my card security this way”.

DTMF masking reduces error

It’s still the case that most consumers are asked to read out their card details to a call center operative when paying over the phone. Clearly the security implications of this are significant, but there are other problems associated with taking payment this way, such as the higher likelihood of error due to mishearing or misunderstanding. This was one of the biggest benefits that our client Locus Telecommunication reported when it switched to DTMF masking.

Project manager Carlos Moreno Tobon told us “Before, we had to rely on customer service representatives to listen to customers giving their card numbers and there was always room for error. There was always the issue of having to repeat information. Now the customer has the ability to enter [their card details] directly we no longer have that possibility of human error.”

Obviously, it’s still the case that a customer could enter an incorrect card number, but this happens much less frequently than operator error in contact centers. Kevin Dowd, cyber security and payment security expert confirms this is the case: “If you’ve ever read out a card number over the phone, you’re usually doing it twice because it’s a long number and people rarely take it down properly the first time.”

DTMF masking speeds up the transaction

Giving customers control of the transaction and letting them enter their own card details using their telephone keypad doesn’t just reduce the chances of error but also tends to speed up the transaction. Customers don’t have to repeat themselves to call center operators. They don’t have to say the first few digits of the card number, wait for them to be keyed in and then say the next few and so on, they can just enter the whole number themselves directly. Essentially this system moves from two people doing the work to one person doing the work, which is quicker and more efficient.

As a side benefit this also frees up the time of the call center operative so they can do other things to service the customer, when they would otherwise have been taking down card details. As Carlos Moreno Tobon says “Any time you free up five, six, seven seconds and you multiply that by our call volume you are saving quite a bit of manpower.”

Laurie Gablehouse at Ingenico ePayments agrees: “In a call center, time is money. They literally measure the number of seconds on every call. If you’re having to take a lot of information over the phone all of that takes time. Call centers are interested in doing anything they can to reduce the call time without adding to the risk of fraud.”

Extra security

Syntec’s CardEasy keypad payment by phone DTMF masking solution adds extra security features to reassure users and merchants as well as speeding up the process up even more.  The BIN lookup and LUHN Check performed whilst customers enter their own card numbers not only identifies who issued the card, where it’s from, and what type of card it is (as a double-check and fraud-prevention measure) but also distinguishes valid numbers from mistyped or otherwise incorrect numbers, reducing denied transactions.

Uniquely with CardEasy, the voice path from customer to agent is also muted just for the middle six digits of the PAN (long card number) and the three or four digits of the security number, so that if the customer happens to read out the numbers at the same time as keying them in, this can’t be overheard and captured in voice recordings for instance – which makes it the most secure DTMF masking solution of all.

So whilst PCI DSS security concerns are the most common reason for organizations to consider DTMF masking technology, if they asked their own customers about their concerns about paying over the phone (as we have) they might find this consumer argument an even more compelling reason to switch, or to switch sooner.

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