As recently discussed on GovLoop, technological innovations have shifted our daily lives almost entirely online. Driven by consumer expectations, even everyday purchases such as groceries are increasingly moving online. But expectations around payments for government services are more complex.
Governments face the challenge of keeping pace with the evolving payment preferences of constituents without leaving behind those who don’t have internet access, credit cards or bank accounts. But today’s payment solution landscape is predominantly developed for commercial businesses, not the public sector.
1. Find a Provider That Understands Government
Search for payment platforms and you’ll see that most are focused on common commercial sector needs. But government agencies have unique needs, especially around reconciliation — the process of accurately recording and syncing payments and transactions.
“Multiple systems are typically involved, including each agency’s account management or billing system, the payment solution, and the jurisdiction’s enterprise financial system,” says Jared Vinson, an expert in government payment solutions. Find a solution provider that can handle these public sector complexities.
2. Match Constituent Expectations
Constituents long ago adopted online payments for taxes and utility bills. But today, the public expects payment capabilities across the entire range of government transactions including fees, tickets and fines. Moreover, each generation has different needs and preferences for payment options, whether that involves digital wallets, recurring payments, payments by phone or in person, or even cash and checks. Solutions must offer options that are flexible to these needs.
3. Integrate With Existing Systems
Count the number of payment solutions in your agency and you’ll likely find different ones scattered across departments. Gone are the days that any department should be implementing a niche payment solution.
Today, governments should be investing in a single payment solution that covers multiple agency services and integrates with existing internal business systems. “Tying payment and ERP together is key to an end-to-end solution,” Vinson says. “A lot of vendors only offer one piece or another. Look for a partner with expertise across all your payment needs.”
4. Scrutinize Payment Platform Security
With the omnipresent threats of cybercrime and identity theft, the public lives in a state of high alert. Payment solution providers must prioritize the security of personally identifiable information, credit card numbers and other sensitive data. Governments should ensure that solutions meet industry standards such as payment card industry (PCI) compliance.
5. Look for Flexible Fees
Finally, search for payment solutions that offer flexibility in the approach and type of fee model used. Different payment types demand different approaches. Payment providers should accommodate those variations, such as allowing for percentage or flat fees, as well as options to absorb or pass fees to the customer. More and more governments are finding transaction-funded models allow them to modernize their payment platforms in a cost-effective manner, while satisfying the needs of their constituents.
Steve Goll is the editorial content manager at Tyler Technologies, Inc. In his role, he shares stories of government leaders finding solutions to challenges across a range of disciplines. During his 15 years of government experience, he worked at the state level in economic development and higher education, at the local level in K-12 education, and at the county/regional level as a workforce development council member.