What is it with our gas stations of late? Pulling up to a pump recently I was soon engaged in one of the longest interactions of all time with a kiosk.
First, enter my loyalty program info, as of course, I don't have the card on me. Then choose the type of payment and insert the appropriate card — debit or credit. No matter, an exchange follows with PIN or ZIP Code being entered.
Then up comes a new interaction asking whether I want a car wash, and if so, what kind — regular, deluxe or something called "the royal." But I'm not done yet — there's still the exchange over whether I want a receipt.
As I said in a discussion on the LinkedIn group Payment Systems Network, what I really want to do is initiate a transaction using my smartphone prior to pulling into the station (or let my better half do it as I am driving), and then just snap a photo of the pump's QR code as I pull alongside.
It's not too much to ask, surely! And it has to be good for banks, retailers and anyone else interested in having happy customers.
"[A]re the banks ready for the disruptive change being driven by the mobile tsunami?" wrote ESQ Managing Director, Harish Bhat in a recent ATM Marketplace blog. "While they have gone after the low-hanging fruit such as mobile banking, and while some of them offer remote deposit capture, there are higher stakes on the table in mobile payments.
"The challenge for banks is that as mobile payments accelerate, they risk losing the direct relationships and intimacy they have built with their customers. They may get confined to the boiler room or the back office while new market intermediaries engage with their customers and get their mindshare," Bhat wrote.
I am a little sympathetic to all those financial institutions looking at how best to support mobile devices. There are a lot of competing technologies and platforms right now — which ones need supporting?
"For a long time there were standards how to make stuff interactive across multiple platforms — Flash, Java — or to fit stuff on small devices using low bandwidth — WAP — yet Apple effectively shot these down," said Thomas Burg, CTO of comForte, a provider of middleware, connectivity, and security solutions for HP NonStop systems. "So what we will get will be at least THREE competing and incompatible eco systems: iOS — iPad and iPhone — Windows 8, Android." So much for standards!
The impact on vendors offering monitoring tools and products, and on those who specialize in providing security solutions, will be more about handling much greater volumes than probably anything else. Even networks with a hundred ATMs may have to be prepared to deal with a community of tens of thousands — maybe more! — of mobile phone users.
I anticipate that this will likely fuel even more discussion about taking the cloud more seriously. The alternatives may require too big an initial investment and, without positive feedback from customers as to just how much they love a product, who wants to invest in massive server and storage upgrades?
It wasn't long ago that a survey in the U.K. revealed that Britain's youth were more likely to leave home without their wallets or purses than without their mobile phone. It's becoming clear that this genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Will this prove to be the catalyst that drives banks to pursue greater engagement with mobile devices?
"Our work with some of the world's leading banks indicates that they have a huge dependency on their self-service and mobile banking channels as the primary interface with their customers," Harish wrote in an email exchange. "It is imperative that these banks maximize the revenue potential of these two business critical channels while delivering a superior customer experience … Ensuring dial-tone reliability and leveraging transaction analytics for proactive decision-making has become table stakes."
Financial institutions, particularly banks, that offer ease-of-use via smart phones are going to attract more customers. So the pressure will be on to integrate current populations of ATMs, POS devices, kiosks, etc. with the one device we can be certain will not be left at home — the mobile phone.
Let's be done with all this button pushing; just work with me to get technology out of my way, and if you aren't too sure I will like what you are pursuing, then yes, just call me!