Ensuring effective validation in European payments with Bank Wizard
The Carphone Warehouse has achieved phenomenal growth since its founder, Charles Dunstone, opened his first store in 1989. Capitalising on the rapid growth in the popularity of mobile communications, The Carphone Warehouse Group PLC has become the largest independent retailer of mobile communications in Europe, operating in ten countries with over 1,500 stores. At the heart of this success story lies the company's widely respected commitment to customer service. As expansion continues in Europe, The Carphone Warehouse is implementing the latest in payment technology from Experian Payments to ensure customers receive the highest levels of customer service in the industry.
Buying a mobile phone is one of the most ubiquitous experiences in the western world, but it is also one of the most time-consuming relative to the value of the phone itself. By the time application forms are completed, the account opened and the phone configured, the apparently simple process of buying a phone can easily take half an hour or more.
The reason behind the delay is that the process is far from simple. This makes The Carphone Warehouse's emphasis on customer service attractive to the consumer, but extremely challenging to deliver.
The process involved in opening a new account as a telephone subscriber requires a series of transactions, one of which relates to the establishment of a Direct Debit for the payment of call charges and, where appropriate, insurance premiums. Without accurate and careful validation of the customer's financial data this process is open to considerable error and even fraud.
Data validation in the UK
Back in 1997 The Carphone Warehouse integrated Bank Wizard from Experian within its back end business management software as part of a review of its Point of Sale systems. The company had previously only used the most basic form of bank data verification.
Bank Wizard is a unique service and software solution specifically developed to validate bank account details across many European countries. Designed to be easily embedded within other applications, it allows users to check the validity of bank sort codes, account numbers and building society roll numbers before they are submitted to an automated banking service such as Bacs.
Without effective validation, errors in the capture or processing of bank details can result in the rejection of payments, directly impacting upon administration costs and customer service.
A successful trial by The Carphone Warehouse led to the roll out of Bank Wizard across the entire UK operation. A swift reduction in payment processing errors was immediately apparent, with a corresponding improvement in customer service and satisfaction. According to Hitesh Patel, Group IS Director at Carphone Warehouse, the timing of the decline in payment errors and the implementation of Bank Wizard were sufficiently closely aligned to link the two developments:
"I don't have detailed statistics, but the huge reduction in errors was clearly linked to implementing Bank Wizard. Whereas before problems would have been sorted out by our post sales customer services team, Bank Wizard is now involved in the initial sales process. This has enabled our sales staff to rectify numerous problems in-store in a way that is much more customer friendly and more cost effective compared with post sales customer support. Since it was first installed, the solution has kept pace with the growth of the company with very great effect. With thousands of new UK connections a day, Bank Wizard is a vital component of our sales process and directly supports our drive to optimise the customer experience."
Operating in France and Ireland since 1996, The Carphone Warehouse has rapidly expanded its international operations to encompass Spain, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal. In line with its corporate strategy of applying best practice proven in the UK throughout the Group's operations, the company is now in the process of rolling out Bank Wizard internationally, beginning with Spain and the Netherlands.
"We are keen to get our European payment system up to the same high standards as our UK operations and roll out Bank Wizard abroad as the potential commercial benefit for us in Europe is enormous. We are enthusiastic about wishing to achieve a similar drop in error rates and a comparable increase in the number of payments completing successfully first time. A fundamental benefit of Bank Wizard is that it helps our contact centre agents and retail sales staff. It also improves the likelihood of a sale going through first time and gives our employees added confidence when dealing with customers face to face or on the phone."
European payments diversity
Bank Wizard can be used to validate bank details across many European countries and the diversity of the European payments industry means that data validation rules are subtly different in each. In the Netherlands, for instance, Bank Wizard must support multiple payment systems including Interpay BGC and the Postbank Interbank clearing system. The validation functions of Bank Wizard in the Netherlands involve a check that the account number format is correct, a full modulus check of the account numbers for all available Dutch banks and financial institutions, the provision of error and warning notifications to prevent the submission of invalid bank details and the identification of Postbank account numbers, which do not support modulus checking.
The Spanish module of Bank Wizard supports the inter-bank clearing system SNCE (Sistema Nacional de Compensación Electrónica) and offers a slightly different range of validation functions. Account number, bank and branch code formats are checked and the software undertakes full modulus checking of the bank, branch codes and account numbers for all available Spanish banks and financial institutions. Bank Wizard for Spain also identifies whether there are errors are in bank/branch codes or account numbers and returns errors and warnings to prevent the submission of invalid bank details.
Mark Bish, former Bank Wizard Product Manager at Experian explains how Bank Wizard can help overcome the issue of pan-European validation complexities: "By developing Bank Wizard as a pan-European platform for bank data validation, users only need to implement one validation solution for their European operations. The development of country specific modules around a core Bank Wizard solution ensures that local sensitivities and requirements are accommodated whilst also minimising the additional investment required by users."
The Carphone Warehouse is taking advantage of the ability to simply add further country modules to Bank Wizard as required and is already committed to implementing further Bank Wizard modules covering Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal as resource becomes available within The Carphone Warehouse.
"Bank Wizard is a self-contained product that requires us to have little interaction with Experian except through their regular product updates. That's a positive sign and gives us the confidence to continue to develop this partnership into the future."
Group IS Director