Reimagining Payment Terminal Management

12 Nov 2019

The days of payment terminals communicating via dedicated phone lines are quickly slipping away. As more and more payment devices are connected to the Internet, retailers are faced with a brand new challenge: keeping up with payment terminal maintenance. Without time and resources to manage these devices, retailers end up with closed lanes and frustrated consumers while they wait for repairs.

According to industry estimates, 1% to 2% of payment terminals in a fleet will need some kind of service in a given month, and each downed terminal is typically unusable for five days.

Today’s Internet-connected payment terminals come with payment terminal estate management, a tool to help them manage their fleet of devices. But with retail tech footprints larger than ever, IT often lacks the time and resources to use more than 10% or 20% of the tool’s capabilities – if they use it at all.

Here’s what happens next: As things inevitably start happening with the devices ― they stop working and display common messages such as “security error” or “serial number not found,” for example ― stores turn to the retailer’s help desk. The help desk, lacking payment terminal expertise, opens a work order on the device. Then the store sends it to a depot, or a truck rolls, bringing a costly tech on site to remediate the terminal.

But the fact is, 75% of the time, that payment terminal’s issues could be remediated remotely using a properly set up, well-managed payment terminal estate management tool. The same repairs that take that device out of service for five days for a depot repair, or are performed on site once a tech finally arrives, can be done remotely in 30 to 60 minutes via the tool: installing new debit or point-to-point keys, for example, or a new OS.

Terminal Roulette

That’s not the only issue that comes from under-use of estate management tools. Retailers buying Internet-connected payment terminals also struggle to keep track of where their terminals are. In the throes of daily store life, a device may get pulled off one lane and moved to another when the original one goes out for service. Or a store closes and its cache of payment terminals get new life in a new location, and on and on.

Servicing a payment terminal starts by identifying its serial number. But those moves make that an issue. When the new payment terminals are first installed, each device is set up in a hierarchy, and its serial number is associated with a particular IP address and location. So when devices are moved around without careful tracking, that visibility is lost. Now store 12 is calling with an issue in lane 2, but the serial number on lane two’s payment terminal is not what the system expected. Time is lost trying to figure out what device is actually there, and what keys, operating system, and so on is actually running on it. Common issues include incorrect IP addresses, two devices with the same IP, the wrong hierarchy, devices in the wrong stores. All that must be corrected before any sort of remediation can occur.

Drowning in Alerts

Underuse of payment terminal estate management also leads to a third issue: constant alerts. Many alerts generated by estate management tools are useful: low battery, excessive swipes, a device has dropped offline. But many more are meaningless. All of them require attention to determine what’s a harmless blip and what’s a major issue, such as activity that indicates an attempted network breach.

Without active management, precious IT resources may get diverted to issues that aren’t really issues at all. Or, more likely, incessant alerts mean they all start getting ignored, even the important ones.

All these issues are driving a growing number of retailers to outsource payment terminal estate management to expert service providers such as Level 10. By ensuring skilled set-up and active management of the tool, Payment Terminal Estate Management as a Service lowers retailers’ costs while optimizing the performance of their payment devices and making payment more secure. Level 10:

  1. Assesses and cleans up payment terminal hierarchies so retailers have full visibility to their fleet, and remote service techs have accurate info to support the device. Those records also help retailers comply with PCI documentation requirements.
  2. Assigns priorities to different alerts, so the most important get the fastest attention. Security-related alerts typically get the highest priority, reducing retailer risk. Longer response windows for lower-priority items keep costs low.
  3. Remediates about 75% of payment terminals remotely, saving the cost of sending the unit to a depot or ordering a truck roll and getting units back on line and serving customers much faster. Those savings deliver a fast return on investment in the service.

Payment terminals are what connect retailers to their revenue, and many of them are now online. So ensuring they remain functioning, secure and well-managed is critical. Retailers are quickly grasping that outsourcing management of Internet-connected payment device fleets to an expert service provider is the most cost-effective way of keeping that revenue coming.