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Interviews

How conversational transactions complete your omnichannel payments strategy

Friday 16 March 2018 | 10:48 AM CET

Dutch FinTech AcceptEasy explains how your omnichannel strategy must account for payments, with more and more people buying and paying through conversational transactions.

Mélisande Mual, Managing Director at The Paypers, interviewed Peter Kwakernaak, CEO of AcceptEasy, at Monitize9. Organized by MGI Research. Monetize9 is the first independent event in Europe focused on monetization – payments, commerce, billing, and CPQ. 

Last year AcceptEmail changed its name to AcceptEasy, what was the reason behind the name change?

The new name better reflects our current capabilities and future vision, both of which have evolved well beyond the email payment we invented (for the Netherlands) in 2007. AcceptEasy today powers customer journeys around non-shop payments in all digital channels: email, SMS, WhatsApp, Apple Passbook, Messenger and the like, often in seamless combination with a brand’s portal, app, site and customer contact teams. The overarching theme is to make things Easy – for the millions of consumers and small businesses we reach with our payment requests, but also for the hundreds of companies on whose behalf we do so. Think of integration, data tracking, message design, security and so on. As we’ve also expanded in payments, use cases, industries, countries and features, the time was ripe for a broader and future-proof name without losing our proud heritage. 

What is conversational commerce and why is it trending up?

Conversational transactions is probably a better term for the scope we cover. Apart from a customer buying something or signing up for a subscription at the end of a dialogue, a lot of conversations happen because someone already has an obligation to pay something. An invoice, a reminder, a top-up, a failed direct debit or autopay… Customer contact teams or bots deal with such interactions all the time. And the definition of Conversational to us is also broader than just digital chats. Thousands of call centre agents are equipped with our tooling to send an email or SMS payment request during a regular human-to-human phone conversation. This enables a real-time back and forth with the customer whereby the agent can confirm successful payment while still engaged. This works well in terms of conversion and service.

So conversational transactions overall are increasing as customers get used to asking companies whatever they want, whenever they want it. The human or bot represents the brand, so it must be able to help you avoid the web shop or client portal, while giving you a personal, intimate experience and First-Time-Resolution. In the meantime, tooling and teams around chat and social channels have matured to facilitate more than service questions. Use cases beyond “buying the product” now range from last-minute add-ons to travel bookings to debt collection payments.

What is the biggest challenge for brands implementing conversational commerce?

If you look at commerce in isolation, maturing chatbots and serving up all the details of your product or service catalogue are the most obvious challenges. But it is also important to realize that your conversational channels cannot be silos. They must be armed with the latest status of the customer’s affairs and vice versa. Zooming in on transactions, take the following situations: if you pay a bill via WhatsApp, that bill should no longer be payable in the portal or the app. But if your spouse happened to pay the bill via the email reminder half an hour earlier, the agent or bot should be able to tell you that. Buy an upsell or an upgrade, and your account should instantly reflect that. If you provide your customer with credit, upon any payment, the credit space for the customer should be expanded instantly.  

This is where companies, especially in biller industries, run up against the limitations of legacy batch-oriented systems and processes on one end, and immature chat & payment point solutions on the other end. Ideally, you should also be able to standardize and scale across conversational channels, use cases and – if applicable – countries and business lines, in real-time, both inside the conversation and in concert with your other channels.

Can you give some successful use cases of conversational commerce in different industries or verticals?

Indeed we can: for a large global consumer finance company we send out email payment requests at various stages of their order-to-cash process. We first leveraged those contact moments by pointing customers to WhatsApp as a new channel, thus helping adoption. Now, their agents can engage with customers via WhatsApp to agree on loan payments, creating payment requests on-the-fly directly from the console of their social platform. The customer receives the link in the chat to easily pay with a local online method. This strategy improves both conversion and NPS (Net Promoter Score), whilst also helping customers avoid late fees.

A large health insurance company uses our tools as their default online payment solution across channels and use cases. So next to email batches and portal payments, they have well over a thousand agents equipped with the ability to send out payment requests while speaking to the client. In addition, they developed an app and a chat function inside that app where customers can also make payments after getting their questions answered by a bot or human. 

In both cases, the key is to provide a clear and consistent flow that confirms in real-time to both the customer and the company that payment was successful.

This last question is on a different subject, but we are interested in what your stance is. What is the impact of PSD2 on e-billing?

PSD2, its XS2A provisions and Instant Payments fit like a glove with e-billing and conversational transactions. The preferred payment method in many countries is either direct debit (SDD) or credit transfer (SCT). Staying close to the bank account brings convenience at a lower cost compared to cards. When both SDD and SCT can be facilitated instantly and technically in the same way across 27 EU countries, it really harmonizes the payment landscape and paves the way for pan-European cross border trade. The promise of one united Europe in which you can choose your insurance company in Germany, your energy supplier in France and your lease company in Italy is getting one step closer. Smartly automating optimal payment dates makes things that much better.

About Peter Kwakernaak

Peter Kwakernaak has been the CEO of AcceptEasy since 2008. An entrepreneur for over two decades, he brings drive and experience at the cutting edge of ICT and financial services. Peter is a passionate baseball player and has a degree in business economics at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. 

 

About AcceptEasy

AcceptEasy transforms and optimizes customer journeys around non-shop payments. Hundreds of companies rely on its cloud-based services to reach and serve millions of consumers and small businesses via email, SMS, chat, portal, app, site and more. From subscription onboarding and conversational commerce to billing and collections, AcceptEasy enables frictionless transactions via local and international online payment methods. Its ISO-certified operations near Amsterdam support leading brands in insurance, utilities, telco, automotive, travel & more.

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