Why Should Banks, ATM Deployers and Payment Processors Care About Transaction Response Times?
March 01, 2012

Stacy Gorkoff

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Because your customers do. Because multi-channel payment environments are a reality. Because virtualization and the Cloud changes everything. Take your pick.

I recently submitted a blog posting on transaction response times to a certain LinkedIn banking technology group for posting. The comment back was, “Please only post Payments related discussions per the group rules.” My first reaction was to spit out my half sweet, non-fat, extra-hot latte I got from my favourite Starbucks barista, Jory. My second reaction was to think, “Hmmm...is it possible I dove too deep into the details, again?”

Seriously, here is round two – a slightly less “geeked out” version of why people in the payments industry should care about end-to-end transaction response times:

Reason #1: Because your customers do.

Whether it is an online banking interface, a mobile application, or an ATM, POS, or other type of self-service kiosk, customers care about three things: consistent service quality, timely content/service delivery and security. If you cannot deliver on all of these, you run a higher risk of losing a customer’s trust and ultimately, their business. And this is why you need the ability, at anytime, to answer the question, “How are our services performing in the eyes of my customers?” 

Monitoring end-to-end transaction response times makes it much easier to do this. It is a common metric across all consumer facing channels and services that can reflect what the end customer is experiencing. Visibility into transaction response times will speed up your ability to spot performance issues affecting service deliverability and availability, such as:

- Infrastructure performance issues - Are there bottlenecks or communication issues on the network?

- Service performance issues - Are there certain online banking services, mobile services or other services offered through your ATM, POS or self-service kiosks that are either slow to respond or not responding at all?)

- Unsuccessful hand-offs - Is there an issue with one of your customer facing device interfaces, third party service providers, interbank or EFT connections?

Reason #2: Because multi-channel payments environments are a reality.

I was recently on a call with Ed O’Brien, Director of Banking Channels for the Mercator Advisory Group, and Robert Johnston, Marketing Director of ATM Software at NCR. Both confirmed that multi-channel self-service environments are a growing reality and causing a whole new level of complexity that ATM and other device monitoring solutions were not built to manage. Let’s consider some possible multi-channel scenarios:

Multi-Functional ATM/Video Streaming Channel Combo

A bank has a rural area branch presence, but it is too expensive to retain an insurance expert at the physical location. By linking the rural branch to a call center via video conference functionality that is built into a multi-functional ATM, customers would be able to access insurance policy services.

Multi-Functional ATM/E-commerce Channel Combo

You go to a multi-functional ATM to deposit a cheque and take out some cash. As soon as you insert your card, a targeted e-commerce advertisement comes up based upon your geographic location and card purchase patterns. You select yes to the offering (your chequing account will be automatically debited and your purchase will be directly mailed to you), and continue on with your banking. You are then given the intelligent option to withdrawal your “usual” transaction amount, and are asked whether you would like paper receipts, moving forward.

Multi-Functional ATM/Mobile Banking Channel Combo

You are doing some banking via your mobile phone application. You decide to pre-stage your mobile transaction on your phone, and go to an ATM. Using near field communication (NFC), your mobile phone communicates with your ATM, and your transaction gets completed. This scenario can also go the other way, where someone in a different city has deposited money into the ATM, then sent you a one-time pin number on your mobile phone so that you can withdrawal the cash.

Managing these types of interactions across multiple services and channels requires a different way of thinking. There are more transaction types, service applications and third party hand-offs than ever before. This growing complexity can definitely make it more challenging to authenticate a transaction in a timely, secure manner.

Transaction response times offer IT, application services, and ATM operations early warning that something is going wrong at the network communications level, a particular service or device, or third party hand-off. By breaking down the round-trip transaction rate on a hop by hop basis, it becomes easier and more efficient to isolate exactly where and why issues are occurring - anywhere along a transaction path.

Reason #3: Because you have critical service applications running in virtual environments.

Cloud and virtual infrastructures are major game changers for how IT, application and ATM operations manage services. When we start talking SaaS or virtualized data center environments, traditional key performance metrics such as CPU utilization, memory, disk input/output, network bandwidth and required storage input/output go out the window. In these types of environments, you need to be thinking about ways to control latency and response time issues.

Transaction response times will give IT, application and ATM operations team visibility into both application and infrastructure latency issues. They give you the ability to start thinking beyond uptime and traditional ticket closure metrics as a way to measure successful service delivery levels, and tie your SLA’s to what should matter the most: What the end customer is experiencing across all your services.

So to recap, monitoring transaction response times will help you deliver on the following high-level banking priorities:

- Delivering the best, most consistent end customer experience across all ATMs and all other consumer facing channels possible

- Ensuring top performance and uptime reliability of an increasingly diverse portfolio of multi-vendor services offered through ATM, POS, and self-service kiosks channels

- Managing critical services and parts of your infrastructure that are running in cloud or virtual environments.

Stacy Gorkoff is Director of Strategic Marketing for INETCO.

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