Taking the friction out of payments | eNett


August 30, 2016

A lot of people attribute the success of Uber to its User Interface. For me, it’s all about the hassle-free or ‘frictionless’ payment experience. You press a button on your phone, wait for car, reach destination, exit car. That’s it. No cash, no cards, no signing receipts. A great end-to-end customer experience, made possible through the seamless connection of the front-end interface with back-end payment systems. 
Uber successfully illustrated how important simple, hassle-free payments are to customers. As a result, we are witnessing huge developments in reducing the friction of payments even further. Earlier this year, MasterCard launched its ‘selfie-pay’, where you can pay bills by taking a photograph. 
But what about C2B2B? Why can’t we see the same one-touch frictionless payments that we are seeing in the consumer world right though the value chain? Commercial payments are a lot more complex compared to consumer payments. Consumers make a handful of payments each week, but travel companies handle and reconcile thousands of transactions a day. Added to this is greater international travel, compounding costs, risks and complication. And these transactions require a lot more data than consumer ones.
There are innovative technologies that are significantly reducing the friction points through automation and seamless integration between the booking and payments workflows. We may not be delivering the ‘Uber-level’ payments experience today, but simple, hassle-free C2B2B payments are not something you should be waiting for…they’ve already arrived. 

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12 December 2017

A Year in Review for Travel

2017 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for the travel industry. Between January and August, destinations worldwide welcomed an incredible 901 million international tourist arrivals. That’s a 7% increase on 2016 and well above the growth of previous years. This strong performance might come as a surprise to many given the challenges the sector has had to navigate. From Brexit uncertainty, civil unrest and a new US president, it has been far from plain sailing. And there have been inevitable winners and losers. However, the overall growth is a testament to the industry’s ability to respond. Here’s a recap of some of the highs and lows over the past year, and ways travel companies can continue the growth trajectory in 2018: Asia and the Middle East dominated fast-growth destinations: International travel has continued to increase at pace, with consumers looking for more exotic and culturally rich destinations. Mastercard’s 2017 Destination Cities Index indicated that Asia and Middle East destinations were the ones to watch, with Osaka, Chengdu, Colombo and Abu Dhabi featuring high on the list of fast-growth destinations over the past 12 months. This trend shows no signs of abating, bringing with it exciting growth opportunities for travel companies to do business in new markets. However, companies should be taking the simple step to re-examine cross-border payment strategies to satisfy customer demand while keeping the costs of international transactions low. As well as expanding payment options to match preferences in new international markets. Airline collapses delivered a warning over supplier default: The collapses of Monarch and Air Berlin were distressing for thousands of travellers and employees. The move into administration from Monarch alone was expected to impact 860,000 people who lost bookings, 110,000 holiday makers overseas and of course its 2,100 employees. But the impact extends far beyond holidaymakers and employees, with supplier default having a knock-on effect on many other individuals and businesses. Our own analysis shows 28 airlines ceased trading in 2017 alone. Travel companies must learn from this and look to digital payment methods to protect themselves and their customers from supplier default. Currency volatility dominated: From Brexit fallout to an unexpected win for President Donald Trump, major political and economic events across the world have seen currencies fluctuate dramatically. This volatility has become the new normal, making it increasingly difficult for travel companies to predict the final cost of a holiday months in advance. They are already operating at tight margins and a sharp drop in the value of currencies could represent huge losses when it comes to settlement. Some companies pass this on to customers which ultimately doesn’t benefit anyone. This highlighted the need for companies to protect themselves from future currency fluctuations through how they pay, such as locking in FX rates at the time of booking. Brexit uncertainty continued: Despite being nearly 18 months on from the UK’s vote to leave the EU, we are still a long way from really knowing exactly how the travel industry will be impacted. The recent news that airlines are drawing up plans to alert passengers that advance bookings cannot be guaranteed after Brexit highlights the level of uncertainty that has prevailed in 2017, and demonstrates how travel companies have been using this time to prepare for all eventualities. The travel industry has done well to continue to grow against a backdrop of complex economic and political factors. I have no doubt 2018 will also bring its fair share of challenges, but the lessons learnt from this year will give travel companies the tools they need to they to minimise the impact of global events, while maximising the opportunities of growing international markets present. For more comment and insight take a look at our other blogs.

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16 November 2017

Tackling Fraud in the Travel Industry

This week is International Fraud Awareness Week, an initiative designed to highlight the impact fraud has on society and boost awareness and understanding of how to spot and prevent fraudsters. And with fraud on the rise, it’s never been more relevant. The travel industry in particular suffers from high levels of fraud, with online bookings through agency sites having the biggest rate of fraud1. The International Airport Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of the world’s airlines, estimates that fraud is costing airlines up to $1 billion a year2 and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reports that travel fraud is up 425% year-on-year3. By definition, the travel industry involves large volumes of payments, with multiple consumers and suppliers across many different countries using a plethora of booking and payment systems. With billions of transactions a year, it’s not surprising that fraud is a top pain point for travel companies. Global travel market research company, Phocuswright, found that fraud was the biggest concern amongst travel firms, with 40% stating that credit card fraud and supplier default are their biggest challenges4. The problem is so engrained in the industry that travel agencies now set aside 1-2% of their revenue into managing fraud5. In an industry where margins are already tight, it’s still a substantial cost. But with today’s advanced payment solutions, minimising the risk of fraud is as simple as changing the way you pay suppliers.  Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) are increasingly popular with travel businesses. A key draw is the increased protection they offer from fraud. Instead of a single physical card number, a digital 16-digit Mastercard number is generated uniquely for each individual transaction, making it a safer way to pay suppliers. A wide number of payment parameters can also be added for greater control, including restricting the VAN by merchant category code. And with chargeback capabilities, VANs also provide protection in the event of supplier default. It’s a digital solution to minimise the risks of fraud and improve recovery. Consumer demand for travel to exotic locations and customised trips organised through different suppliers will continue to grow. The travel industry will also continue to be a target for fraudsters given the vast number of transactions made in different currencies and to far-reaching corners of the globe. VANs provide travel companies with a way of minimising fraud, as well as being a fast, easy and safe payment method for transacting with suppliers and protecting customers. For more information go to www.enett.com 

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30 October 2017

Key to tapping Asian travel market is payments

The eNett team recently exhibited at ITB Asia, the biggest travel trade event on the continent. It’s always been an important market for us, and it continues to be so. Today our customers transact in 29 Asian countries and growing. But it’s also an increasingly attractive market for the wider travel industry. Asia as a region has seen huge growth in outbound tourism, in keeping with the global trend for greater international travel. The number of outbound trips from Asia grew by 11% in 2016, the highest growth by any region[1]. And of all the Asian countries, China is supporting the growth as it continues to be the biggest source of outbound tourism in the world. But how can travel companies outside China get in on the action? In an increasingly competitive landscape, offering a range of payment methods is becoming a key factor in purchasing decisions. This stands to reason, the broader the choice you offer consumers, the better the customer experience and the more likely consumers are to convert. Especially when it’s their tried and trusted payment method. For China, there are a number of options including Alipay, UnionPay and WeChat Pay. It’s straight-forward enough for travel companies to add these to their websites, but the real issue is that there are very few travel suppliers outside of China who accept these types of payments. For me, there’s a simple solution to a complex problem. Instead of looking to travel suppliers to change the way they accept payments, travel companies should change the way they pay travel suppliers. Passing through cards brings very little value to travel companies. So why not have acceptance of payment methods like Alipay and WeChatPay at the front end, then pay suppliers with universally accepted payment methods like Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) in the back-end? VANs are already the most popular way for large agencies to pay hotels after traditional payment methods according to travel industry research authority Phocuswright. The reason for their popularity is simple. 16-digit Mastercard numbers are generated for each transaction and processed like a normal card payment. As they’re unique and integrate with existing booking and property management systems, they are an easy and safe way to make payments. They also benefit travel suppliers. VANs reduce their risk of fraudulent card transactions. That’s probably why eNett VANs recently won Best Travel Payment Solution Provider at the Travelmole Awards in Asia for the second year in a row. In an increasingly global environment, travel companies should be making it a priority to expand their payment options in the front-end to drive conversion and enhance customer experience. By having a universally accepted payment method like VANs in the back-end, matching the payment demands of Asia, or for any other region, is easier than ever. To find out more on how VANs can support your business, click here. [1]UNWTO World Tourism Barometer 2015/2016

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27 September 2017

We’re backing World Tourism Day’s drive for sustainable tourism

This week marks the United Nations’ annual World Tourism Day. The UN has announced the official theme as ‘sustainable tourism’.  This means the big focus will be around raising awareness and encouraging institutions, both private and public, to come together in making tourism a positive catalyst for change. According to the UN, tourism, the third largest export industry in the world, has the capacity to contribute to all the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. This is a cause I hold dear to my heart. With travel and tourism growing every year, many local, underprivileged communities are being displaced throughout the world - especially in high-growth travel destinations. Some of today’s high-growth tourism hot spots, while booming, are unable to pass on the full benefits to the local communities because of a lack of adequate education. In fact, many communities in high-growth destinations find themselves being displaced. The travel and tourism industry has been a great platform for eNett to thrive, allowing us to rapidly grow year-on-year and expand into new markets. We have a responsibility to give back and that’s why we launched our annual CSR programme ‘Repay the eNett Way’ last year. We didn’t want to simply donate to charity. We wanted to take a direct hands-on approach, shining a light on the challenges and pressures experienced by underprivileged communities around the world - and make a difference to the lives of people living there. Education has the power to transform the lives and futures of individuals, their families and local communities who may have been displaced by tourism. That’s why we are committed to making a positive difference in this area through the initiative. In 2016, eight members of our team fundraised and travelled to Phnom Penh in Cambodia to help make improvements for the community, including refurbishing a sewing room and building a new playground. We also sponsored two individuals from the towns; the first to qualify as a travel tour guide and the second to gain a scholarship at one of the top local English speaking universities so that he could pursue his dream of becoming a translator. We witnessed first-hand the difference these types of initiatives, from a company of our size, can have on people’s lives. In November, nine eNett employees will embark on our next initiative; travelling to the disadvantage township of Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Here, they will be part of a team of 282 volunteers from across the world taking part in the project which aims to build 14 new classrooms, two playgrounds and two new kitchens in one week. I can’t wait to see what they achieve, and impact it has on them and the community. The fact that World Tourism Day highlights the need for sustainable tourism, should be a call to action for all travel companies to get involved. As a whole, the travel industry can do more to give back. Personally speaking, our Repay the eNett Way initiative has been phenomenal in bringing together the team like never before. I encourage every company, large or small, to look at how they can contribute to sustainable tourism. A little can go a long way in disadvantaged communities. For further information on Repay the eNett Way, click here

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29 August 2017

Great employee experience = great customer experience

Having launched multiple companies over 20 years, there is one thing that has proven true time and time again: customers will never love a company if its employees don’t love it first. When I started eNett I knew I had something special - a unique proposition that would create real disruption in supplier payments. My first task was putting together a team of people who shared that belief. Eight years on, we’ve built a global company facilitating tens of billions of dollars in supplier payments for the travel industry. This simply wouldn’t have happened without a team of great people working together to turn eNett’s vision into a reality. Today’s employees are more discerning than ever. They’re selective in the opportunities they choose to further their career (at least, the good ones are). We’ve got a special team and culture here at eNett, and in order to stay ahead in the ever-evolving Fintech space, it’s vital that we attract and retain top talent. As well as marketing to customers, we are also marketing to employees. Here we come to this term ‘employer brand’. How do we package up everything that is great about working at eNett into a brand that attracts, engages and retains the right talent? A brand that creates a sense of pride, ownership, fulfillment and enjoyment among existing staff. One that turns employees into brand evangelists who tell their friends and family what a great company they work for. Last year we embarked on a journey to understand how we can deliver a best-in-class customer experience. A key finding from this process, was a need for a holistic view across the Service Profit Chain. This means putting energy into the employee experience to drive an improved customer experience. In other words - happy employees create happy customers. Drawing on research, we worked with our creative agency Hard Edge to develop an employer brand. It had to support retention and engagement with our existing employees, as well as attract fresh talent as we continue our significant growth. As with any brand, a successful employer brand needs to embody the company’s culture. In particular, it has to be genuine and differentiated: a true representation of your company that is unique to you. Along with the Hard Edge team, we defined our employer brand in three words: “Awesome Game Changers”. From this, we identified four brand pillars that set eNett apart as an employer: 1. We’re a high growth, global company;  2. We push boundaries to find a better way; 3. We’re a close knit team; 4. We value our people. These pillars along with our brand values of being Bold, Easy, Fast, and Fun gives our people and candidates a clear picture of what they can expect from us and what we’d like from them in return. Almost a year on, the results are encouraging. In a recent survey, 92% of our people said they would recommend eNett as a great place to work. We’re seeing stronger internal and external communication and greater retention of key messages. Our onboarding experience is rated highly by the new recruits, and there is greater visibility of our values and associated behaviours within the business. I believe that ‘People’ are a key differentiator in any company. That’s why my philosophy has been to attract the best talent in the right positions. I encourage my staff to never be afraid of hiring people better than themselves – I tell them “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. For further insights on Customer and Employee experience, click here.

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01 August 2017

How Virtual Account Numbers Simplify B2B Travel Payments | eNett

The traditional travel payments system isn’t working. Companies are wasting time, money and potential on an archaic system that doesn’t get the results that it could. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The challenge for travel firms Booking a holiday - be it a flight, a cruise, a hotel stay, or all the above - is a big decision. It’s a high consideration purchase that most people don’t take lightly. So any roadblocks in the path to purchase that create a poor CX (customer experience), equate to unhappy customers, high abandonment rates and, ultimately, fewer bookings. The companies managing these multifaceted customer journeys have their work cut out for them. And nowhere is the challenge harder than for the online travel agencies, leisure travel agencies, suppliers and consolidators who have the task of managing the complex manual payment processes. Handling these processes can take an extortionate amount of time and money, and beyond this, puts companies at risk of digital fraud, cyber attacks and data theft. Enter VANs. What are VANs? A VAN - or Virtual Account Number – is a unique 16-digit number that is generated each time a transaction occurs. The number is linked to a specific funding account but it is the VAN, not the account number, that the supplier receives. They can be valid for a single transaction or they can be set for a certain number of transactions, certain monetary amounts, particular merchants or for a set period of time. They are adaptable to the individual needs of an online travel agency, leisure travel agency, supplier or consolidator and can be used to pay suppliers quickly and efficiently. Steadily, they are helping to reinvent the B2B payment solutions landscape. Making travel payments safer Fraud and cyber attacks are no longer distant threats - they are commonplace news stories in global media. And it’s not just small businesses with limited resources to allocate for security that are at risk. Cyber attacks grew by 50% last year, with high profile victims like the NHS and Danish transport giant Maersk highlighting the extent of the problem. And the stats only get worse. Online fraud in the UK alone grew by 2% in 2016, costing more than £768m, with card payment fraud accounting for a whopping 80% of this amount.VANs, however, put the control smoothly back in the hands of the companies that use them and away from increasingly sophisticated hackers. The streamlined process – being able to attach, in real-time, the supplier payment to the traveller booking - provides certainty throughout the value chain, and reduces the opportunity for vulnerability. Even if a hacker managed to steal a virtual account number, they wouldn’t be able to do anything with it as it will have already expired. Cost efficiency Working across multiple jurisdictions in different currencies can affect profit margins drastically. Brexit has weakened the pound against the dollar and euro, eroding travel industry profit for many UK companies. VANs, however, are locked in at the time of booking, removing uncertainty and the chance of any profit being wiped out by a currency fluctuation. Our recent creation, the CX Calculator, helps travel companies of all shapes and sizes see exactly what kind of ROI they can achieve through intelligently improving customer experience levels. Reducing manual processes Automating B2B payment processes means that there is minimal manual (and often arduous) work to be done, contributing to a happier workforce in travel firms. The streamlined and efficient process speeds up processing which is great for all parties involved, be it a travel agent, supplier or end booker. The online travel industry currently spends around $1.5bn a year on manual processing and as much as 40% of the industry still relies on this method. But by automating with a VANs payment solution, businesses can cut down on IT and accountancy costs and spend valuable time and money more effectively and creatively. International flexibility VANs enable travel companies to expand very quickly and easily into new jurisdictions. How? They are accepted anywhere where Mastercard is online, meaning they are accepted in over 70 different countries and across more than 35 different currencies. Instead of having to set up payment processes in each new country (taking time, money and management), companies can simply generate VANs which will be accepted in that country because of its connection to Mastercard. This flexibility across borders, time zones and currencies makes everything more seamless and efficient. And as VANs are easily integrated into existing travel booking workflows, it’s easy for travel companies to incorporate them into their current strategies. The sky really is the limit when it comes to expansion and growth. The future of B2B travel payments The travel sector might be complex, especially in the world of B2B, but payment processes don’t have to be. They can be safe, efficient, and create a CX that ensures happy customers and better business performance. Our mission at eNett is to provide inventive yet practical payment solutions across the industry and to completely transform the space as the world knows it. Watch this space.

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22 June 2017

Eight Entrepreneurial Essentials

Today marks eight years since we started on our journey to shake up the travel payments industry – and what a journey it’s been! From a tiny no-frills office near Heathrow airport, to offices in Asia, Australia, Europe and America. And we’re still expanding…..growing 64% YoY in 2016. As a founder, I get asked a lot about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. So, in honour of our eighth birthday, here are eight entrepreneurial essentials for success: 1. Be boldWhen it comes to funding, don’t be intimidated by a job title or a company name – think big and aim high! Don’t be afraid to knock on the door of the CEO. eNett wouldn’t have come about if I didn’t push hard to get a meeting with Travelport – a multi-billion dollar giant in the travel industry. 2. Make it countThey’re called ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities for a reason. So practice, be at your best and give it everything. Remember, investors are just as interested in your passion as your PowerPoint. When I got a chance to pitch to the MD of Travelport for investment, he had to cancel the meeting to catch a plane – so I pushed hard and he agreed to meet in the back of his taxi! We signed a joint venture a few months later.3. Be unwavering in your beliefIf you don’t have 100% belief in your offering, don’t bother. It’s that belief that’s going to give you the energy and tenacity to make it into reality. I was shocked at how old fashioned and manual payment processes were in the travel industry. That’s when I had my Eureka moment for Virtual Account Numbers. It was two years before the concept became reality, and required a lot of input from a lot of people, but I never doubted it, and was able to project that unshakeable confidence to others. 4. Scale up before you get customers – not afterIn today’s digital age, it’s never been more important to build your infrastructure today based on anticipated demand five years down the line. Nothing gives a poor customer experience more than not being able to log in on your website. Think like a big company from the outset! 5. Hire the best peopleI’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, but the truth is you’re only as good as the team around you. Take the time and effort to find and hire the best people, and it will pay dividends. Never be afraid to hire people better than you. As I always say, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” 6. Cultural fit firstAttitude first, then aptitude! Hire people who will fit in and support the culture of the brand you want to promote. This is especially important in the early stages of a company. My view is you can always teach skills, but you can’t teach culture. 7. Talk to your customersThis may seem obvious, but I’ve seen too many great companies think they know what customers want, without asking them! Talk to them, more importantly, listen to them, and be flexible enough to adjust your offering accordingly. Even as CEO I still talk to as many customers as I can. And fly over half a million miles a year to do so. My EA tells me that’s enough to get to the moon, but there’s no customers there, yet! 8. Always be asking: what’s next?Standing still is the same as going backwards! You need to look at where the trends are heading five years or ten years down the line and start planning for that now. That’s why market insights are so important. We transitioned from challenger to industry leader in such a short space of time because we anticipated trends like greater digitisation and more global travel, and amended our VANs offering to meet those trends well ahead of time. For more insights click here

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30 May 2017

Becoming ‘The Amazon of Travel’ is about an exceptional end-to-end experience

Over the last couple of years, Ryanair has pledged a number of times to become the ‘Amazon of travel’. CEO Michael O’Leary said he wanted the airline to offer hotel bookings and Trip-Advisor style reviews and last year the company launched ‘Ryanair Rooms’, ‘Ryanair Holidays’, and a car-hire service.  I had the opportunity to meet Michael at a conference in Dublin last year. What a great character! All of these measures aim to incentivise customers to book package holidays directly from Ryanair. But the airline wants to go further. Last month CMO Kenny Jacobs announced that it plans to sell partner airlines’ flights, stating ‘It’ll be like putting your products on Amazon’. When you think about Amazon, it is truly a marketplace. Part of its success is down to delivering exceptional customer experience (CX) based on a seamless buying experience. Consumers have hundreds of thousands of suppliers and products all in one place. And Amazon’s merchants have access to a seamless, one-click easy payment process. Everyone’s a winner. While Ryanair has begun building up content on its website, it’s still a long way off from being a marketplace. Allowing different airlines to advertise on its website is a step towards this. But it’s getting the backend processes such as payments right that will allow it to offer a seamless CX.  One of the biggest challenges with effectively supplying passengers to other airlines is the question over who ‘owns’ the customers. Airlines won’t necessarily want to bring customers onto the Ryanair marketplace, with the possibility of losing overall customer loyalty. It remains to be seen whether Ryanair can indeed become the Amazon of travel. But I welcome the effort to bring together a fragmented travel industry. Even with online market places such as Skyscanner, consumers don’t have a seamless booking process because they still need to jump to the travel operator’s site to pay. When consumers are creating their own holidays, searching with different suppliers, this makes the process more cumbersome.  It also increases the risk of fraud and the complexity in terms of financial processes, currency exchange and supplier management. Skyscanner and Ryanair should consider integrating different payment methods to help streamline the experience. Perhaps they could partner with a payments specialist like eNett ;) to bundle different payment methods into a wallet – acting as a translator for universal acceptance. Travel buyers would get choice and travel suppliers would get guaranteed settlement. When dealing with different suppliers and multiple currencies, operators need a fast, easy and safe way to transact. You can have the most amazing front-end website possible, but without the payments processes to back it up, there’s no way you can deliver a seamless customer experience. Get this right – and provided other airlines and other travel suppliers are happy to get on-board – then perhaps Ryanair can realise its dream of becoming the Amazon of the travel industry.  I for one will be watching with interest to see what transpires. To find out more on how payments can power experience click here. 

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18 April 2017

Coca-Cola: Delivering A Sparkling Customer Experience

The Coca-Cola Company recently announced a number of senior leadership changes, merging the role of Chief Marketing Officer into a new position combining marketing, customer and commercial strategy - the Chief Growth Officer. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the mantra “putting the customer first”. Yet in truth, the customer is often behind the pursuit of new business, product development or shareholder value. Customer Service is often a separate after-sales role, used to handle complaints or technical issues. Coca-Cola has recognised that putting the customer first requires a holistic view of customer experience (CX) and that CX plays an integral role in driving business success. What’s more, it can be quantified. Our own research with global customer experience experts, Smith+Co., reported that a 5% lift in customer loyalty can increase profits by up to 85%. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most iconic brands, built on pioneering marketing techniques. The fact that it has taken the step to combine the Chief Marketing Officer role with the customer to achieve growth should make organisations in all industries sit-up and take note. CX is not just about sophisticated websites, apps and big budget campaigns. True CX is shaped by the experience of simply doing day-to-day business with a company. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________"A 5% lift in customer loyalty can increase profits by up to 85%" _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Things like complex payment processes, hidden costs, issues with the delivery of an order or a poor experience contacting a company have a lasting impact. Taking a complete view of an organisation and investing in making processes easy, fast and secure, ensures customers remain as engaged as when they first chose one brand over another. It drives repeat business, referrals and ultimately commercial success. We’ve taken a similar approach in our business. Our own Chief Marketing Officer has become the Chief Marketing and Customer Officer. He has been tasked with leading a programme to make sure our CX is consistently good at every interaction and function within our business. From Sales to Finance. It is built into personal development plans, appraisal processes and designed into our products and services, like Coca-Cola, we understand CX equals company growth.

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08 March 2017

Delivering a Seamless Customer Experience

Great Customer Experience can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line. According to Forrester, just a one-point gain in the Customer Experience Index was worth $65 million to an upscale hotel chain. The ROI when it comes to customer experience can be huge. And it starts with understanding your customer’s expectations at each stage of the buying process. When it comes to travel, customers are buying a ‘dream’ not a product. Customers want to take their time researching each destination for the perfect holiday. After all, you only get to go on holiday once or twice a year. Google’s Head of Industry for travel estimates that only 4% of online visitors to Travel Agents’ websites are looking to buy. Travel companies are clocking on to importance of selling the dream. But where they fall down is the next stage – booking and payments. Once customers pick a holiday they expect the booking and payments to be fast, safe and easy. Anything less than that means a bad customer experience. The focus tends to be on the interface, but the back-end supplier payment mechanisms need to be just as frictionless and streamlined. Increasing B2B payment efficiency Leslie Mcardle, Marketing Director at predictive intelligence consultancy ‘Now Interact’, argues that delivering a quick and seamless booking process is as important as data capture and personalisation. "Travel Agents are standing at the precipice of a period of incredible growth. All that they need to do to reap the rewards is to embrace data, personalize their contact channels and work towards offering a stress-free, and seamless, online customer experience." The travel sector is a market where a fusion of digital processes and human touchpoints can be harmonious or problematic. If a supplier payment process is cumbersome, how does that affect the travel company and, as a result, their customer? Historically, supplier payments in the travel industry have been inefficient, complex and involving outdated manual processes. This can lead to errors, booking mix-ups and in the worst case: card fraud. All of which results in bad customer experience and loss of repeat business. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Travel companies should be investing in tools and platforms to speed up B2B payments, as they have with B2C payments. By doing so, they will see benefits in both the customer, as well as the employee experience. How much happier would employees be if their boring manual tasks were automated? Only by investing in every aspect of payments will a truly seamless, efficient booking and payments process be achieved. The end result is a positive customer experience, repeat business and the all-important customer advocacy. For more on the relationship between CX and business performance, we've put together a dedicated resource here. 1 Forrester: The Business Impact of Customer Experience, 2014

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26 January 2017

Changing lives in Cambodia

We’ve been privileged at eNett to have benefitted greatly from the travel industry. But there’s always been a desire to give something back, and use the travel industry to make a real difference in the lives of people less fortunate. Last year we put this into action through the creation of our social responsibility programme ‘Repay the eNett Way’. The Repay the eNett Way initiative was designed to support people impacted by greater globalisation and tourism. We didn’t want to simply donate to charity, but take a direct hands-on approach, shinning a light on the unique challenges and pressures experienced by underprivileged communities around the world - and making a difference to the lives of people living there. With this in mind, Cambodia, with its high travel industry growth combined with high levels of poverty, was the first country chosen. I’m a firm believer in the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The power of education in changing lives was a key tenant of our programme. Through our sweet sales, charity bingo and other little events we helped Sreng, a resident of the underprivileged community of Phnom Penh, to qualify as a tour guide. Now he has a new profession and means of income to support his family. We also used the money to provide a scholarship for Lavin to learn English at one of the top schools in Cambodia. Forced to live in care with his sister and brothers, on his own Lavin would have struggled to break the cycle of poverty. Now Lavin will fulfil his ambition of becoming a translator, improving not only his prospects, but those of his future family. It’s amazing to think our spare change in the first world can instigate generational change in the third world. In a few weeks’ time, eight of our team will travel to Cambodia and immerse themselves in the disadvantaged community of Phnom Penh. Getting truly hands-on, our volunteers will be launching new initiatives there, and seeing first-hand the results of their fundraising by meeting the people whose lives they have helped changed. Having gone through a social responsibility initiative for the first time, I would wholeheartedly encourage other companies to do the same. The enthusiasm, creativity and generosity that came from all areas of the company has been amazing. It has been an enriching experience for everyone involved and we’re already looking forward to surpassing our achievements with the next iteration of the programme.

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12 December 2016

The currency conundrum

2016 has seen a number of significant international events. Arguably two of the biggest were the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the USA’s decision to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States. The long-term implications on the travel industry remains to be seen. But one of the immediate effects was on currency rates. Following BREXIT the pound dropped to a 31 year low. The day after election night, the US dollar plunged. International travel agencies whose transactions settled on those days, could have seen their profit margins evaporate overnight. With further uncertainty ahead and increasing consumer demand for ever more far-flung destination, managing international transactions and protecting from currency fluctuations should be a key priority for travel companies in 2017. Demand for exotic and unusual holiday destinations has meant today’s travel companies are operating more globally than ever before. The latest Phocuswright research showed that the number of travel companies accepting payments in more than ten different currencies has doubled from 6% to 12% in the past three years. And 6% are now doing business in over 50 different currencies. Although this presents huge opportunities when it comes to global expansion, it comes at a price. Foreign exchange and cross-border fees as well as more admin increases the cost of payments. And when you’re dealing with 50 currencies, the risks of currency fluctuations eating into your margins are high. So how can travel companies reduce costs and risks? The first step is to re-examine your cross-border payment strategy. Modern trends require modern solutions. Too many travel companies stick with traditional methods for international transactions. But what they don’t know is that a lot of the costs of international transactions are ‘hidden’ fees and charges. In fact our analysis shows travel companies relying solely on banks could be spending 3% more on international transactions compared to alternative methods. Secondly, look for FX options that give you control over rates to reduce costs. Solutions offering local funding and settlement significantly reduce the cost of payments, and eliminate the need to set-up expensive banking arrangements in each jurisdiction. And real-time conversion allows agents to lock-in rates at the time of booking – protecting from currency fluctuations. Implementing an effective cross-border payment strategy is a must if travel companies are to effectively meet the destination demands of today’s consumers, while remaining profitable. Anthony Hynes, CEO and MD, eNett International

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03 November 2016

Have we reached the tipping point for virtual cards?

When it comes to B2B payments in the travel industry, traditional payment channels have been challenged by innovative alternative payment methods. But how much impact have they had? New research by Phocuswright on payments in the European travel industry shows that things are changing - and when it comes to Virtual Cards or Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) the momentum for change is faster than ever. The last time Phocuswright carried out a payments study was in 2013. Three years is a long time in technology, so in partnership with Phocuswright we wanted to find out how much innovative technologies like virtual card had disrupted the industry. We weren’t disappointed. The research outlined a definite shift away from traditional payment methods by the travel industry, with Virtual Card the biggest beneficiary. Support for VANs has more than doubled, from 26% in 2013 to 55% in 2016 representing a huge step-change in adoption. In fact, the research showed support for VANs amongst larger agencies has already overtaken traditional methods, with 71% supporting VANs, compared with EFT (62%), cash (52%) and cheque (42%). And when it comes to paying hotels and accommodation, travel companies of all sizes cited VANs as the most popular method of payment (24%), second only to traditional credit cards. Is this the sign of things to come? Three years ago, the Phocuswright report deemed VANs and virtual card technologies outside of the ‘conventional’. Today VANs have firmly established themselves as part of the new normal for agencies and suppliers alike. More and more travel companies are realising the cost and efficiency benefits alternative methods can bring, all by simply changing the way you pay. I believe in the 2019 study we will see VANs overtake EFT and cheque overall when it comes to preferred payment methods, with cheques driven close to extinction. As for the rest of the world, there’s still work to do in terms of educating and supporting the global industry to realise the full benefits of alternative payment options. But change will come. VANs have reached their tipping point, and B2B travel payments are one step closer to truly frictionless payments.

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04 October 2016

Payments: more than just a number

Have you ever thought about what those 16-digits on a credit card mean, and more importantly, the information that these numbers are giving away? Each number, or groups of numbers, represent the type of card, the network provider and the issuer. But what if the numbers could be used to convey so much more…I was recently asked what advances in payments we should expect in the next five years. For me, when it comes to transactions, it’s all about data! In a world where ‘big data’ is seemingly endlessly talked about, the value of information has never been higher. For example, MasterCard has a dedicated analytics centre to analyse the 10 petabytes (a million gigabytes) of transaction data globally to identify spending trends. But what if the card number itself could carry a discount code, confirm trading terms, as part of a commercial agreement between a supplier and an agent?When it comes to traditional credit cards with their static single number, this wouldn’t be possible. But as virtual cards are digital and unique to each individual transaction, this isn’t beyond the realms of reality. Nor is it in the distant future. I can see a time where Virtual Account Numbers can be embedded with code reflecting the commercial agreement between an airline and consolidator for example, or an OTA and a hotel. We already have an agreement with a major supplier, which will see agents who pay by VANs have the surcharges applied to traditional credit card payments reduced. As transactions increasingly become digital, I’m excited about the future possibilities of Virtual Account Numbers, and the value they can bring beyond the transaction amount.

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02 September 2016

What can C2B learn from B2B? | eNett

I was recently asked, “what can consumer-to-business payments learn from business-to-business?” It’s a great question. During my conversations with journalists over the years, and what I hear being discussed in the industry, it’s usually the other way round. C2B payments are often seen as the peak of innovation, but there are areas in B2B payments, which are far more advanced. One of those areas is payment control. FinTech’s focus on making payments as easy as possible comes with a drawback - loss of payment control. Chip and Pin was brought in to make card payments more secure. Yet today, you merely need to wave the card to make a transaction. What’s more, you have little control over transaction limits, which are set by the bank, and can be used for multiple transactions without a daily cap. Could you set a daily cap even if you wanted to? That wouldn’t work for B2B. When it comes to travel supplier payments, control is king. It’s no wonder with thousands of transactions happening daily, across multiple regions, suppliers and channels. Travel companies want as much control as possible over their transactions to guard against misuse, protect from fraud and ensure accurate reconciliation. A lot of innovation in the B2B space is focussed on control. The best payment solutions offer unlimited user-defined reference fields so you have rich data on what was paid, when and to whom. Today’s solutions also allow travel companies to set payment parameters based on value, date range validity and even merchant category code. For me anyway, I’d love to be able to veto which websites my family is able to use our credit card at. It might cause some a few ‘tantrums’ in the house, but it’d certainly help ease the pain I feel when I look at my statements each month. I’ve seen some apps that help when it comes to spending discipline. But it’s clear, when it comes to payment control, consumer payments can learn a lot from B2B.

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09 August 2016

Top 4 payment habits eating into agency margins | eNett

Most executives would agree on the importance of change and constant evolution for businesses to remain competitive. Yet when it comes to supplier payments, methods are based on habits with little progression in the approach. With an ever-changing travel landscape, I thought it’d be useful to highlight some of the key bad habits that we see all day every day, that are undoubtedly costing travel companies money: 1. Using credit as the default form of paymentCredit is the default form of payment for many organisations. But in today’s increasingly regulated financial landscape with stricter controls on lending, access to credit with favourable terms is harder to come by. Travel companies often find themselves reaching credit limits, especially in peak season. Not only is this a nuisance, but also causes dynamic rates and immediate payment deals to be missed. It causes friction, disrupting the momentum or rhythm of the company. The less payments friction you have, the more transactions you can do – get rhythm, get scale! 2. Passing-through customer cards for payments“Avoiding payment fees” by passing-through customers’ cards for payments to suppliers is still common practice. But think about it, when you pass-through customer cards, you’re also passing on the customer experience. What if the supplier misuses the card details, won’t the customer hold you accountable? And, separately charging fees for your services rather than bundling them with the costs of travel could be encouraging your customers to go direct next time, ultimately impacting your repeat business. 3. Viewing supplier payments as a necessary evilPaying suppliers is often seen as a necessary evil and nothing more. But adopting innovative payments solutions can streamline processes for cost and time savings, and generate tangible rewards on transactions. Supplier payments can be transformed into a new revenue stream if travel companies are willing to break their habits and change their approach. According to our cost of payments calculator, an OTA transacting US$100M could make savings of up to US$1.4M just by changing the way it pays.4. Always doing what you’ve always done – the “can't be bothered” syndrome! I hate the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Too many people get comfortable and become resistant to change, or just “can’t be bothered”. But making small changes can reap huge rewards. I have an OTA customer who was able to increase its business by a factor of 50 without having to take on additional accounts resource by simply automating its payments processing and reconciliation. Supplier payments can be transformed into a new revenue stream if travel companies are willing to break their habits and change their approach. 

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06 June 2016

Top strategies for optimising your payments | eNett

When asked to identify potential areas for efficiencies, payments might not be top of mind. But taking a deeper look into the cost of payments can unveil a huge opportunity for savings. A common error travel companies make is failing to look beyond the direct costs. The true total cost of payments should include indirect costs such as manual reconciliation and fraud risks. The most effective cost saving strategies are those that address both the indirect as well as direct costs. Having advised travel companies around the world on their payments strategy, I’ve put together my top tips for lowering costs and optimising your payments.1. Reassess how you make cross-border payments For many travel companies, the costs of cross-border payments are exacerbated by exposure to FX fluctuations, fees and mark-ups, most of which are not transparent. Getting on the wrong side of foreign exchange could see your margins evaporate by the time it gets to settlement. It’s no wonder that our own analysis of bank fees and charges shows travel companies could be spending up to 3% more than they need to on each international transaction. There are innovative solutions available that provide a more cost-effective solution to traditional methods. Look for options that allow local funding and settlement to avoid surcharges and fees. But make sure you get clarity on how much mark-up your provider adds onto transactions. For FX, look for an option that gives you control of FX timings and rates, to best match the needs of your organisation. 2. Automate payments processing and reconciliation Manually processing and reconciling transactions is time consuming, error-prone and costly. Our own estimates put the cost of manual processing and reconciliation of up to US$6,000 per week for some travel companies. With solutions out there to automate the payments process, it’s an easy win. But the level of automation, and therefore cost saving, is dependent on the level of integration. The best solutions are those that seamlessly integrate with back-end accounts and booking platforms, optimising efficiency by allowing payments within the workflow. And don’t settle for automated reconciliation, but reconciliation that comes with detailed reporting options for rich data and greater payments clarity. The cost and ease of implementation should also be included in your vendor assessment. Savings from low cost implementation may end up being wiped out if on-going support costs or more bespoke configuration is charged. And complex integration may cost you in terms of downtime disruption – there’s always an opportunity cost. 3. Mininimise your fraud risks and protect yourself from supplier default The cost of fraud can be significant. In the airline industry alone, the cost of card fraud is estimated at US$1 billion a year1. And how costly is the loss of reputation and good will should a customer’s card be misused or details hacked? Demand more security from your method of payment. Ask your vendor if you can set payment parameters for greater control of payments. Look for solutions that provide payments guarantee, and chargebacks in the event of supplier default. Or why not chose a solution which eliminates the traditional physical card altogether? 4. Choose a payments strategy that brings value to your businessHaving funds tied up in bonds brings little benefit to your business. Choosing the right payment option can enable you to reduce the bonding requirement, unlocking cash to be used for growing the business. If dynamic rate discounts are an important part of your business strategy, choose a flexible immediate payment option that can optimise your costs savings.Taking time to sit down and really assess your total cost of payments can return rich rewards, and there are tools out there to make this even easier. Our Account Managers offer an unrivalled set of travel knowledge and payments expertise. They regularly meet with our customers, armed with data to provide real insights to help them achieve their business goals. To make it even easier, we developed a calculator tool in collaboration with KAE Associates that provides even more clarity. And because we believe in transparancy, it's available to everyone, industry wide.I encourage you to challenge your vendors, reassess your strategy, and look to the real cost of payments to make a tangible impact on your company's bottom line.1. Travel Payments Insider Issue 2, November 2014: The Mobile Traveler – Convenience vs. Security

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05 May 2016

Four reasons why credit is given too much credit | eNett

Over the last few years the travel industry has seen rapid and dynamic changes. There are new economic and competitive pressures, business models and technologies that are prompting travel companies to change their business practices to better match the new landscape. However, one area which is often overlooked by travel companies is payments. Credit is the default choice, whether that’s lodge cards, company credit cards or customers’ personal cards. But in today’s travel landscape, do the benefits of credit really stack up when compared to alternative payment methods? Here are four reasons why I think credit is given too much credit.1.Shorter payment termsBefore the credit crunch, access to credit was easy with travel companies able to negotiate 60-day payment terms with suppliers. Those days are unequivocally over. Payment terms are much shorter, and even though the global economy is recovering, news of emerging markets not living up to expectations will continue to make access to credit difficult. All this means that credit is becoming less beneficial and attainable for travel companies.2.It increases the cost of paymentPaying on credit also involves fees and interest increasing the cost of payment for travel companies. This is especially costly for international payments, where travel companies can end up on the wrong side of currency fluctuations. Having to set-up banking arrangements in foreign jurisdictions can also be time, and money, consuming. One widely used option is to pass customer credit card details directly to the supplier, but this brings no tangible reward for the agency. 3.Discounts for immediate paymentAdded to this, the rise of the Low Cost Carrier model, coupled with more digitally savvy consumers using comparison sites, has led travel suppliers to focus on optimising inventory. One prevalent tactic is to offer big discounts on fares and rates that are settled at the point of booking. Taking advantage of these discounts requires immediate payment methods. Using traditional cards is an option, but sharing card details increases fraud risks, and multiple transactions on a company card can cause problems with reconciliation. Using customers’ cards to pay makes travel companies responsible for any fraud or misuse of the customer’s card details by the supplier. 4.More rewarding alternatives Today, there are innovative solutions which seamlessly integrate with booking and accounts payable platforms, enabling payment from within the workflow and automating reconciliation. What’s more, there are options which return a rebate on transactions for money back on your payments. And in an industry where fraud is a top concern, what value would you put on having a lower risk payment method? It’s time to get real about credit, and do the calculations. Ask yourself “do the benefits of credit outweigh the efficiency, revenue and lower risk benefits of alternative payment methods?” Anthony HynesManaging Director & CEO

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05 April 2016

When will the fintech revolution reach b2b payments | eNett

The last few years have seen an explosion in payment innovation - whether that’s the rapid expansion of “tap and go” contactless cards or Mobile Wallets from tech giants, Apple and Google. We are seeing countries like Denmark taking steps to becoming cashless, with the government announcing a proposal scrapping the obligation for retailers to accept cash as payment. And across the world making payments for consumers is quicker and easier than ever. The message coming out from Silicon Valley is clear: FinTech is hot property. So why, when it comes to B2B payments, have we yet to see the kind of technological revolution currently shaking up the consumer payments world? This is none more apparent than in the travel industry. Paying travel suppliers is still heavily reliant on manual processing and paper, with some suppliers still requiring confirmation by fax. Different types of suppliers require differing payment methods through multiple systems – none of which are connected to each other. And after all those thousands of transactions have been made, comes the manual reconciliation. It is estimated that the time and money wasted on manual payments handling and reconciliation costs the global travel industry in excess of US$1.5 billion each year. It doesn’t have to be this way. And the good news is Travel Companies don’t need to wait. There are already technology solutions out there that, through integration, join up the multiple systems and automate the payments and reconciliation process, while also eliminating error-prone and inefficient manual constraints.So what’s the hold up? Payments in the travel industry are complex, relying on aging technology and embedded processes. In fact it was this complexity and the desire to simplify it that first inspired me to build eNett International. The travel industry has been reluctant to let go of the established ways of doing things. However, the rise of the Online Travel Agent coupled with changing consumer habits and a more digital world are making suppliers change the way they sell - causing travel companies all over the world to reassess the way they pay.I firmly believe that the next 10 years in travel will see more innovation in B2B payments than we’ve seen for the last 30. The B2B payment revolution has already begun and I’m excited to be able to help our customers take advantage of it.Anthony HynesManaging Director & CEO 

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