U.S. Bank has begun offering e-payment kiosks to companies that want to shrink lines during their stores' busiest hours.
"The lines at these business aren't just for making payments, there are also customer service and other business functions," says Sam Robb, U.S. Bank's collections and receivables manager. "Where there's a line during peak periods, the kiosks are a way to drive people to a more automated option."
The Minneapolis-based bank's Global Treasury Management unit is targeting companies, government entities, utilities and nonprofits that accept electronic payments from users or customers.
Similar to an ATM, the kiosks are customizable, free-standing machines that accept cash, checks, credit and debit cards. Clients can view which consumers have made payments and place targeted messages to kiosk users.
The kiosks are designed to serve a consumer base that still hasn't embraced the Web or mobile phones to make recurring payments, yet can still benefit from an automated option. More than one in five consumers pay bills in person, Robb says, citing bank research. "Our goal is diversify payment options that we offer to billers, so they can offer a different set of choices to the payees," he says.
During a pilot, Detroit Water & Sewerage installed a self-service in its office in downtown Detroit to collect bills from residents. As a new service that just exited testing, the bank has not deployed the kiosks with other clients yet, Robb says.
With the addition of kiosks, U.S. Bank offers five channels for business payments, including the Internet, interactive voice response, staffed service center and mobile Web. Other companies such as VeriFone are also combing self-service kiosks with other automated channels.
Beyond customer service, U.S. Bank is also positioning the kiosks as a risk management play. "It takes the payment out of the cashier's hands and eliminates cash shrinkage and the fraud associated with the transactions because it's not being handled by humans," Robb says.
U.S. Bank has adopted a variety of payments technology and strategies to encourage adoption of automated transactions.
On the consumer side, in the past year the bank has released a smartphone payments app and NFC case for travelers. It also uses watermark technology to aid in-store shopping, voice commands on its mobile app and is testing a way to initiate payments from printed ads.
On the business side, the bank recently developed a way to integrate enterprise resource planning software from SAP and the bank's payment origination service. U.S. Bank has also launched an electronic "precise pay" option that allows suppliers to authorize the exact amount of intended payments. If the supplier's authorization matches a payment, the transaction is processed, with an auto-reconciliation for payments that don't match the buyer's payment instruction.
In another move targeted toward business payments acceptance, U.S. Bank in 2013 began supporting the mobile point of sale payment provider Square as a payment option for its customers.
"We want to offer as many different endpoints as possible, mobile, web, etc.," Robb says. "It's about rounding out the channel strategy."