Could Smartphone Payments Make Their Way to Field Service?

With nothing more than the wave of a smartphone, consumers are starting to paying for everyday items like coffee or the morning newspaper, without pulling out any cash.

And while the days of green-backs and credit cards certainly aren’t over, the fact is that mobile payment options are starting to really gain traction with consumers.

Many field service organizations already process payments through mobile credit card readers or (gasp!) even paper checks, but as mobile-payment apps continue to grow, the consideration to allow customers to pay for a repair or installation on-site with nothing more than their phone seems enticing — especially for smaller operations that want to avoid credit card fees.

However it appears service organizations are, so far, slow to get on the bandwagon.

Urgent Rooter and Plumbing of San Francisco said they aren’t yet looking into near-field communication readers. Asked whether NFC is on their radar yet, Rachel Ulloa, of Oakland, Calif.-based Atlas Heating and Air Conditioning said she had “no idea.”

On the other hand, non-NFC mobile payments are definitely in use. Roto-Rooter, for instance, currently issues techs smartphones that run a proprietary software called etrace that lets workers log in, swipe, and process a credit-card payment through the phone or tablet, and then issue a receipt on a small Bluetooth-connected printer.

“If a customer is paying by credit card, they don’t like to let that out of their sight,” Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter spokesperson, told the SmartVan. “Years ago, we had to carry it off to the van, call into an office and read off the number. [But] this way it’s instant, automatic and the customer is much more comfortable because it’s happening right in front of them. It’s a trust factor.”

But NFC may be close: Abrams said his company has started issuing Sprint ZTE Optic tablets to employees over the last few weeks in select locations. With NFC technology becoming more ubiquitous in tablets, the ground has certainly be laid for NFC payments in the field.

The mobile-wallet trend had been pretty slow to get off the ground initially, but some recent developments are pointing to a far more widespread acceptance of near-field communication, or NFC, payment technology. Starbucks this week announced a partnership with payment app Square to promote the mobile-payment feature at the ubiquitous coffeeshop chain. Split Bread, a San Francisco restaurant, is also ditching cash and cards, encouraging customers to use their smartphones instead.

“Getting rid of cash makes the customer experience as frictionless and streamlined as possible,” said David Silverglide, business partner at Split Bread, in an interview with Wired. “Cashiers can get people through the lines quickly.”

Roto-Rooter’s system may not have eliminated the credit card entirely, as many new consumer versions like Google Wallet and Square’s mobile have. But as mobile adoption in field service grows (and studies show that the interest is there), there’s a good chance that mobile payments will follow.

More: Crucial Considerations for Collecting Payments On-the-Go.

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ABOUT Tiffany Kaiser

Tiffany is a tech journalist turned full stack developer who's passionate about the design of a site, the code I write and the people I'm writing it for. I can OO JavaScript, style a sidebar and query a database while upholding that human element needed to communicate with team members and clients.