Listen up, America: Australia gives a lesson in swift contactless migration

Last updated: 19 March 2014

Recently the CBA (Commonwealth Bank of Australia) came forward with a vital lesson learned from their migration to contactless payments: get the education piece right, and you’ll pave the way for a faster, smoother contactless migration.

According to one CBA official, contactless migration in Australia was weighed down by lack of education and poor change managementOfficials pointed to a poor job of educating merchants on what it would take to train staff on the new POS terminals and how to talk with customers.  It can be challenging to train staff across a large organization, one that has high turnover, or staff spread out across multiple shifts.  For cashiers, a well-executed training is critical to reducing transaction times.  Get it wrong and transaction times could spike as workers fumble with a POS terminal they aren’t familiar with.  However, when workers are comfortable with contactless payments, transaction times can be greatly reduced, especially when using contactless terminals.  And that is music to merchants’ ears.

Transaction times in Australia were slowed down even more by lack of education on the consumer side.  At first, shoppers bogged down cashiers with questions, often needing step-by-step guidance through the payment process. Lacking in knowledge about the security behind contactless payments and the underlying EMV technology, consumers often had misconceptions and therefore were skeptical of the technology, hindering the chance of a swift contactless adoption.

In contrast, APACS, the U.K. trade association for payments, launched a sweeping educational campaign in 2004 aimed at smoothing the way for EMV.  The campaign, I Heart Pin, was widely successful in educating consumers and merchants about the benefits of EMV and how it works.

There are a host of rumors and misconceptions surrounding contactless payments that could curb efforts at a quick migration, some of which I wrote about in a blog series earlier this year. Yet most countries have found that when consumers and merchants understand contactless technology, they are eager to use it.  The challenge then lies in making sure Americans have accurate, useful information about EMV and contactless payments right from the start.

We, in the U.S., are in the fortunate position of being the last G20 country to upgrade our payment system to EMV because we benefit from the lessons learned by our Australian and British colleagues. U.S. stakeholders must work together to create a consumer messaging and training campaign adapted to our particular flavor of contactless EMV.