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How to handle payments & customers if your card machine is not working

Small Business Advice 4 July 2018

When something important breaks, you really appreciate how important it is…a bit like a washing machine. And card payments are no different. The VISA outage on June 1st 2018 had a huge impact on businesses across the UK and Europe. Consumers everywhere struggled to pay as more than half of all card authorisations failed to go through.

We understand how important it is to get paid on time. Unlike some, we spotted the situation early and were one of the first companies in the UK to communicate the outage to customers, giving advice across social media and issuing ongoing updates throughout the day. We feel that good planning can sometimes make all the difference. So whether your card machines are playing up, or your internet is down, our survival tips will make sure your business is always ready.

 

Step 1: Make a plan

Agree and write out a clear plan of action with your staff, so everybody knows exactly what to do when there’s an outage. Ask yourself how previous outages affected you and your customers, knowing this can give you a headstart on any potential issue.

 

Step 2: Find the problem

So how do you fix the problem? Well, you’ll need to know what the problem is first. Is it a fault? Is it a power cut? Is your internet connection down? If the issue lies with card machine, your first port of call should be your payments processor. Check for social media updates, visit their website or give them a call. If you can’t get hold of them consider asking other local merchants. Once you know what’s going on you know who to chase. 

 

Step 3: Assign tasks to your team

Things go smoother when you work as a team. Get your staff together and give them tasks to carry out. Who’s going to liaise with the card or processing company? Who’ll provide extra help for customers? Who’s going to be logging transactions? Assign roles and make sure people know exactly what they need to do.

 

Step 4: Talk to your customers

Make sure your staff are at the top of their game, giving customers clear instructions on where the nearest cash machines are and if they’re actually working. Put up a sign near your till or in your shop window, make customers aware of the problem as soon as possible.

 

Step 5: Use social media to provide updates to your customers

Keep your customers updated. Try to stay calm (even the angry posts) and reassure customers that you’re doing everything you can to resolve the issue.

 

Step 6: Ask customers to try paying with another card

Spread out your payment potential. Make sure you’re ready to accept all types of card (VISA, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express). This way you minimise the risk of card payments not going through. During an outage, reassure your customers and ask them for another type of payment.

 

Step 7: Take payment that isn’t Chip and PIN

If your terminal is playing up, then contactless payments, online or phone payments might still be fine. And while cryptocurrency and local currency options aren’t widely available on the high-street, it might be something to explore. Keeping track of payment trends and staying ahead of the curve is always a good idea.

 

Step 8: Manually record transactions

How long will the outage last? The issue could be over in a flash or drag out (fingers crossed it doesn’t), so you might need an interim process that allows you or your staff to keep track of payments. Record the person’s name, the product or service being sold, as well as the time of purchase. Then update your system with the relevant details when the problem is fixed. An Excel spreadsheet will do or go old school with a pen and paper.

 

Step 9: Consider investing in a flatbed imprinter

When your payment system is down, a flatbed imprinter can be really handy. These devices can provide important backup so you can keep taking card payments and they don’t cost an arm and a leg (you can get one for under £30).  Flatbed imprinters use two adjustable rollers, one for the card and one for the plate, to allow you to print details from your customer’s card. Once your payment system is back online, you can then use the scanned customers’ card details to commerce the transactions. Before using the imprinter, make sure your customers are aware of how it works and agree to have their cards scanned.  

 

Step 10: Beware of anything suspicious

Cybercrime should always be treated seriously. However, your business becomes even more vulnerable during and after a card payment outage. So what can you do? Just trust your intuition. Be wary of anyone posing as banks, processors or card companies. Stay cautious of emails or phone calls requesting information about you, your business, your bank accounts or your customers. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

 

Finally: Be part of the solution

It might not seem like it, but the way you handle your customers during the outage can boost your relationship with them. Keep everybody informed of the situation and what you are doing to fix it. Reassure customers that you’ll be recording all interim transactions separately.

You might want to tell your customers to contact their bank and to check their statements to see if everything makes sense. Remember, follow our steps, stay calm and be ready. And don’t forget to check our Twitter account, we’ll do everything we can to keep you updated.

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