Square: Disrupting the Payment Experience

(The following is the first in a two-part blog-exchange I’m doing with Annette Franz Gleinicki, a customer experience expert focused on improving customer and employee experiences.  I follow Annette on Twitter and have learned so much from her writings.  Because we have similar perspectives on customer experience, we decided share with our readers each others’ thoughts on disruption in the customer experience.  Today, Annette discusses how Square is disrupting the payment experience.  My post on how Tesla Motors is disrupting the automotive buying experience will appear on Annette’s blog next week.)

I’ve been watching the mobile payment experience from afar, and today I’m taking a look at Square, a company that has made a huge impact on this experience for merchants, individual sellers, and consumers as well.

Haven’t heard of Square? It’s a payment card reader (see image to the right) that can be used on Apple and Android phones and tablets. I’ve used it several times to pay for services, and it’s so simple, for me and for the merchant or service provider. They swipe my card and can then email or text me the receipt. (It’s environmentally friendly, too!)

Square has a few different products for sellers and one for buyers/customers. Their goal or their vision is to “simplify commerce for everyone.”

How is Square disrupting the payment industry and payment experience? In a few different ways; they…

  1. persuaded the goliath credit card companies to change their rules about payment aggregators, which has opened the door for competitors and banks to move into the space and offer similar products
  2. afforded small merchants and individual sellers, i.e., think hair dresser or artist at a street fair, who previously weren’t able to accept credit cards the ability to do so – Square is more affordable (lower fees), and they don’t check your credit before sending you the reader (some of their competitors do)
  3. modernized the cash register (with Square Register), providing business owners tools to grow their businesses, get to know their customers, and make the purchase experience simpler for their customers
  4. provided consumers with the flexibility to pay by credit card for any transaction (assuming the seller uses Square)
  5. gave consumers a tool (Square Wallet) to make mobile payments, allowing them to leave their wallets at home

In addition, the fees are more reasonable than other methods of accepting credit card payments, and the money goes into the seller’s bank account the next day. No waiting for funds.

Let’s look at Square Wallet and see how it changes the customer experience. First, you must have the Square Wallet app on your phone or tablet, loaded with credit or debit card information. You  select the merchant from which you are going to make a purchase. Second, the merchant must have Square Register, which is the merchant’s complementary app. When you are ready to pay, you give the merchant your name. The merchant pulls up your account by name (your picture is next to your name, for verification) and charges you. Done. If you want to try it, you can pay at Starbucks with Square Wallet.

While Square appears to be making the payment experience simpler for buyers and sellers, they need some work on their customer service. When I researched Square for this post, I found a lot of complaints about the inability to call them for support; you can only send an email. As we all know, a lot can get lost in the tone and the translation of an email.

Apparently Square would rather invest their money in advancing the technology than on improving their customer service. While I can appreciate the former, you must have the latter, regardless of what business you’re in. Perhaps Square needs to go back to square one on simplifying support for everyone.

Annette Franz Gleneicki is a customer experience executive focused on improving both customer and employee experiences. Through her blog, CX Journey, Annette shares her passion for helping companies understand the importance of the employee experience and its role in delivering an exceptional customer experience, as well as how to transform their cultures to ensure the customer is at the center of every conversation.

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