McDonald's Corp. has tested a wide range of mobile payment technology throughout the world, and its ability to do so is rooted in an old decision based as much on customer service as technology.

Most McDonald's locations in the U.S. have a card reader that faces away from the cashier, allowing the patron to make a payment directly rather than hand a card across the counter. McDonald's has had this customer-facing payment for more than ten years, and today all of these readers accept contactless Near Field Communication payments in addition to swiped card payments.

"The consumer already plays a role in the process, at McDonald's," said Jim Stapleton, the senior vice president of sales for Softcard, the AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon-owned mobile payment system. "A lot of merchants are just now getting into contactless and EMV, which requires a new system."

User experience is a major part of getting retailers and consumers to adopt mobile payments. Apple Pay has taken steps such as easily accessible tech support to guard against early glitches.

McDonald's has provided training for its employees on how to use Apple Pay and similar technology said Anja Carroll, vice president of media and consumer connection for McDonald's USA.

"Any time a new program or initiative is added to our restaurants, training is critical to ensure its success to the customer experience as well as operations," Carroll said.

Softcard on Nov. 14 introduced Tappy, a puppet that resembles a point of sale device. Tappy is featured in ads that demonstrate how to use Softcard to make purchases; one such ad features pro wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Though McDonald's has provided publicity for Softcard, "We can accept all payment products that leverage standard NFC and we prefer to allow our customers to choose how they prefer to pay," Carroll said.

A number of merchants have shown a reluctance to adopt or promote multiple mobile payment options, partly due to rivalries between providers. In particular, some of the merchants that support the Merchant Customer Exchange, which is developing the CurrentC wallet, have blocked NFC wallets and contactless cards.

At McDonald's, the diversity of payment options preps the fast food chain for the rapid growth of mobile payments, said Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent. 

"The fact that all of the main U.S. NFC-based wallets—Google Wallet, Softcard and Apply Pay—can be used at McDonald's shows that they put consumer experience first and are open to work with different partners," Bareisis said. 

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