With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses the world over are traveling uncharted territory as they struggle to remain economically viable and—equally important—keep their employees and customers safe and healthy. In the U.S., we’ve seen an aggressive shift to electronic payment systems such as Apple Pay, Venmo, and PayPal, a direct response to the unprecedented spread of infection and virus-related deaths. And while cash has been at the heart of the American economy for over 200 years, seemingly overnight, this has changed for businesses and individuals alike.
Enterprising retailers, restaurants, and service providers are deploying strategies for contact-free (or limited contact) transactions, all anchored by electronic payment systems with no cash changing hands. Simultaneously, technologies like PIN pads at grocery stores for credit card payments and Square—that staple of craft fair vendors and other micro-business owners—are suddenly suspect. Who wants to touch a surface that so many others have touched? This April, the regional grocery chain Publix Supermarkets, Inc., and its GreenWise Markets, rolled out contactless payment via Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, for all of its 1,243 stores across the Southeast. Publix CEO Todd Jones cited safety and efficiency for this major shift in operations after resisting the move for years.
Touting digital payments as quick, clean, and easy, Fintech (financial technology) firms view the current crisis as an opportunity to promote and implement faster and safer financial transactions. And while banishing cash altogether may not yet be feasible (or necessarily prudent), Fintech thought leaders envision electronic payment systems accelerating across all sectors of commerce. With innovative technologies already in the pipeline, this transition seems imminent.
Business Process Automation (BPA)
“We see this segue to electronic payments systems as a natural progression in business process automation,” said Tim Smith, General Manager at Copiers Plus. “So many of our customers are already using technology to automate repeatable, day-to-day tasks. Accounts payable and receivable are prime examples. Anytime a business can streamline a process, particularly when it comes to reducing or eliminating paper and bolstering best practices, efficiency is going to improve.”
Three Key Elements for business process automation include:
- The process requires consistency across the organization
- The process is repeatable
- The process needs to be free from error, every time
“But it’s not just about replacing paper with PDFs,” said Smith. “The goal with process automation is to produce a system that’s transparent, error-proof, and cost-efficient.”
Laserfiche, a multi-national leader in intelligent content management and business process automation, provides an exceptional case study for transforming the paper-intensive accounts payable method for the city of Boca Raton, Florida.
As the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS continue to distribute urgently needed stimulus funds to Americans under the CARES Act, direct deposit and pre-paid debit cards will be favored over paper checks. At this time of uncertainty, these modes are undoubtably both faster and safer.
“On a macro level, it’s easy to see how electronic payment systems can make a huge impact,” said Smith. “But even on a local level, we see how nimble the professional, retail, and service sectors have been in this public health crisis. Copiers Plus stands ready to partner with these innovators as we face the ongoing business and human impacts of Covid-19.”