Closing the Third-Party Payment Gap

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Closing the Third-Party Payment Gap

By Eric Barfield, senior vice president of vertical markets strategy at Elavon - 04/10/2019

Imagine, your hotel was selected to host the “wedding of the century.” A-list guests from around the world have traveled to attend the celebration, and it is of the utmost importance to ensure every guest has a pleasant, memorable experience. On the day of the wedding, the back office receives a call from a wedding guest who was unable to attend the event but would like to send a bottle of champagne to the honeymoon suite. Knowing how important it is to make a positive impression on this customer, the agent on the phone has three options to choose from:

  1. Send a credit card authorization form to the customer by fax or email. Along with the information on the form, a copy of the credit card (front and back) must be submitted. The card number is manually input into the property management system (PMS) and the form is printed and kept on file for years. This option risks exposing the guest’s personal information now and in the future and can impact your PCI compliance standing.
  2. Take the credit card number over the phone, write it down and enter it later into the PMS manually to charge the payment card. This option puts the guest’s credit card information at great risk of prying eyes or being disposed of improperly. This method also has direct impact on your PCI compliance standing.
  3. Let the guest know that, unfortunately, the hotel cannot accept payments unless they’re in-person and apologize for the inconvenience. Not only has the hotel lost out on a revenue-generating opportunity, but it has left a negative impression on the guest who will likely relay the information back to the newlyweds and other wedding guests.

As the agent weighs his or her options – put the guest’s information at risk or refuse payment – he or she ponders if there is a better and safer way to help this customer.

Hotels receive calls every day from a variety of customers who need to pay for services remotely. Reasons vary widely, from meeting or wedding planners, travel agents, tour operators paying a deposit or milestone charge. Or, sometimes the request is to pay for something not associated with an event, such as paying for a dinner, room stay or bottle of champagne for a guest.

Today, if someone wants to pay for a gift for a guest (like a bottle of wine to be delivered to a guest’s room) or a family member wants to pay for another family member’s stay at a hotel, the process is laborious, time-consuming and potentially unsafe. Guests are required to call, fax or email payment card authorization forms containing personal and card data. These manual ways of accepting third-party payments expose hotels and guests to a vast array of security risks.

To help address this pain point, hoteliers should consider utilizing a cloud-based payment authorization system to handle the payment details. This new technology can replace the current risky process of taking credit cards directly into the hotel environment and instead be able to send, track and manage payments in a completely digital environment. Cloud-based solutions can also enhance the customer experience by allowing guests to pay at their convenience online and receive a receipt for their payment. Most importantly, hoteliers should seek a platform that encrypts the card information for maximum data security.