July 5, 2010

Canadian call centres outsource PCI compliance to Datatel

By Robin Arnfield, News Editor

TORONTO--The tightening of PCI (Payments Card Industry) compliance rules for call centres has presented Toronto-based Datatel with a unique growth opportunity, says CEO Barnard Crespi.

Until recently, payment processing was not a primary business for Datatel, which for the past 15 years has mainly been providing outsourced IVR (interactive voice response) services for call centres south of the border.

“Although card payments over the telephone have been common for many years, they have not been offered as an outsourced service, and they have not been PCI-compliant,” says Crespi. “Then PCI came along and our customers needed a payment system that would integrate with the services that they were already getting from us.”

It was the flow of enquires about payments that prompted Datatel to develop a PCI-compliant payment product.

One customer in particular, the Ontario College of Teachers with over 200,000 members, played a significant role in making Datatel aware that all call centres have to have a PCI-compliant payment method, Crespi recalls. “That relationship catapulted our business in Canada,” he says.

To serve the Ontario College of Teachers, Datatel was required to integrate its platform with Moneris, an acquirer owned by RBC Royal Bank of Canada and BMO Bank of Montreal, and to go through PCI certification. “Then we realized that there are many other organizations that need to be PCI-compliant,” Crespi says.

Datatel began the process of creating an integrated PCI-compliant payment module in early 2009, a procedure that has meant “retooling the entire network for PCI,” according to Crespi.

Going forward, Datatel is looking to offer transaction services via other Canadian processors, including Interac. In the U.S., Datatel has just received certification from Heartland Payment Systems for its Pay-By-Phone hosted IVR credit card payment gateway. The company is looking to establish connections with other U.S. processors including Moneris’ U.S. subsidiary.

The Datatel payment gateway is similar to an Internet payment gateway used by online merchants says Crespi. The call centre interacts with the end customer and, when it comes to making a payment, the call is passed to the Datatel automated system.

Crespi says that the Datatel platform in turn interacts with the payment processor without recording or storing card information. Once the transaction, is complete Datatel forwards a confirmation to the call centre.

The advantage of using the Datatel payment gateway is that the call centre does not need to pay for hardware, software license or development costs, Crespi says. This makes the outsourced service particularly cost-effective for mid-market-sized call centres.

Start-up and back-office integration costs for the payment gateway range from between zero and C$4,000 depending on the volume of transactions generated by the customer. Transaction fees can be anything between 35 cents and C$1.25, again depending on transaction volume, Crespi says.

Pay-By Phone is being used by a second Canadian customer, Swiftpark, a Toronto-based company that allows customers to pay for their parking via their own cellphone. Swiftpark collects payments via Datatel, then sends out a ticket number which the customer can write on any piece of paper and place behind the windscreen. These numbers can be verified by parking attendants.

The PCI DSS (Data Security Standard) (https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/pci_dss.shtml) is a set of global requirements for providing enhanced payment card account data security. It was developed by the founding payment brands of the PCI Security Standards Council, including American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc.




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