09/20/2011

What Not to Do: The Most Avoidable Payment Processing Errors

Payment processing is an involved (and occasionally confusing) business. There are many players, many systems involved, and therefore many points for potential failure. At Shift4, we do all we can to eliminate or bypass potential points of failure within our sphere of influence. But, did you know there are a few steps you can take on your end to make things run even smoother?
Here are some of the most common errors made by clerks that can negatively affect the payment process and how to avoid them.

Fake Authorization Codes: When a card returns a “voice auth required” or voice referral message, clerks might be tempted to enter a false authorization code. No one wants to take the time to call in and let the line of customers get longer. However, clerks need to know that inputting fake auth codes can not only cause problems with the transaction within DOLLARS ON THE NET® but can also cause an entire batch of transactions to fail to settle at closing time.

Improper Error Handling: Sometimes, a clerk swipes a card and the transaction gets far enough through the process to authorize, but the authorization response (for whatever reason) fails to get back to the POS. Rather than retrying the transaction, some clerks will ring everything up again and resubmit the charge with a new invoice number. If this attempt processes successfully, duplicate transactions will appear in DOLLARS ON THE NET (unless your POS system is specifically set up to automatically void these transactions).

Multiple Card Swipes on a Single Invoice: If a card fails to read on the first attempt, some clerks will try quickly swiping the customer’s card multiple times in order to get a good read. This practice really doesn’t make any sense because the card readers cannot combine partial data from two bad swipes to make one good swipe and because you run the risk of getting two or more good reads and end up double (or triple) charging your customer. It is a better business practice to have clerks smoothly swipe a card once, try it again if an error results, and then manually key in the card if those attempts fail. Cleaning the swipe readers on a regular basis will also help to keep this issue at a minimum.

F&B Seat Adjustments: This error happens when, at the end of a meal, the waiter collects payment from a guest and authorizes their card for an improper amount. Instead of adjusting the amount of the already completed transaction (or voiding the existing ticket and starting over), the staff member transfers the ticket to an unused seat. He or she then opens a new ticket at the original seat, re-enters the ticket for the correct amount, and authorizes the card. When engaged in this practice, waiters fail to properly void the original ticket, which leads to duplicate charges and/or lingering authorizations on a guest’s card. Instruct your staff to only make adjustments to the original ticket and to avoid this practice and its unintended consequences.

Splitting Transactions: Let’s assume we have a charge of $1,000. Because it’s a large amount and the clerk is concerned that it may be in excess of the card’s transaction limit, the clerk decides to split the transaction in half. The clerk swipes the card twice, charging $500 each time. However, because it is the same dollar amount, on the same check, and using the same card, DOLLARS ON THE NET sees this as the same transaction (ignoring the second swipe as an accidental duplicate) and only obtains one authorization for $500. If you’re going to split a transaction, it is best to put the amount on two separate checks.

Being too Friendly: No one likes an ornery clerk, but at the same time, a clerk that is too chatty or engaging can actually be a bad thing when it comes time to process the payment. If your employee’s conversation with the cardholder distracts them from what is happening on the PIN pad, there’s a chance the customer won’t enter their pin or complete the signature in time. If your clerk re-runs the card (depending on how your POS handles it), the card could be double-authorized. Encourage your clerks to be vigilant and make sure the customer stays focused on the purchase process.

Please take the time to share these tips with your staff. It may not fix every problem you come across, but it will help you to avoid those that are most easily preventable on your side. As always, if you find yourself facing these or any other issues, contact us and let us help you resolve them. We’re available 24/7 by calling 702.597.2480, option 2, or by e-mailing support@shift4.com.