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Notes from the financial services trenches: Know your card payments & users

If you are responsible for marketing digital products in the financial services industry, or any industry, you are undoubtedly interested in reducing the impact of card payment failures on operations on your business, all while enhancing the user experience. But what are the indicators should you be monitoring?

I work with many customers from the general insurance industry, and it’s no secret that their product sales are increasingly generated from online platforms rather than through traditional paper-based methods. While it provides immense convenience and better efficiency to both customers and insurance companies, the critical issue here is users’ ability to make payment successfully. Failure to ensure this, and your business may be negatively impacted in 3 main areas:

  1. Unhappy user ends up purchasing policy from competitor
  2. Increased operations costs (identifying a failed payment doubles operations costs)
  3. Loss of recurring revenue (e.g. once a user buys a life / motor insurance they are likely to stick to it for multiple years with the same provider)

Typically, when one thinks about adding a payment feature online for services, for example the purchase of life insurance, the picture that comes into mind would be integrating payment modes, such as VISA, MasterCard, AMEX PayPal and Discover to the final payment page, and voila, the job’s done. Now you can sit back and relax while the digital cash register rings.

However, in this article I will not be talking about how payment gateways work (merchant, issuer, acquirer, open network, closed network and so on) but more importantly, I want to highlight what you should be looking out for once integration is completed and how to prepare for the unknown if payment failures do occur.

Prevention is always better than cure:

  1. Is the payment gateway connection up or down?
  2. Don’t just rely on success or failure responses from payment gateway (the lifecycle of card payments is, unfortunately, not that simple). What are the possible success / failure responses of the payment gateway?
    1. Transaction type
    2. Transaction status
    3. Error message e.g. insufficient funds, invalid card number, invalid cvv, etc.
  3. Co-relate user ID with failed payment. If you have this in place, you can proactively reach out to the user in the event of failure and help to complete the transaction.
  4. What are the mandatory fields that the issuing bank requires while validating user, such as user name, cvv and expiry date? You’d be surprised to know that not all fields are mandatory, depending on the issuing bank.
  5. Check if there is any maximum limit set by the payment gateway in terms of the amount that the user is allowed to pay.The reason for failed payment can be from something as simple as the user entering the wrong expiry date, to other things as bizarre as a maximum limit in amount set by the payment gateway. What if a payment is marked as “failed” because the transaction amount is more than, for example, $1,000? (Note that it’s not the same as credit limit when paying by credit card or available bank balance of a debit card)
  6. Campaign performance: A simple trending chart of interest to sales and marketing. Does your payment correspond to online / offline campaign time?

Armed with these useful pointers, digital product owners will be able to set up dashboards, reports and alerts before a product launch to achieve better online user experience.