Guarantee Secure Credit Transactions Before you Swipe that Card

By Bob Carr Chairman & CEO, Heartland Payment Systems | October 28, 2008

There's no denying that credit card fraud is on the rise. A 2007 report from the Association for Payments Professionals found 72 percent of 3,000 members surveyed had been victims of actual or attempted fraud in 2006. That's up from 68 percent in 2005.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of data compromises originate through small merchants-those generating less than 20,000 e-commerce transactions or a million total transactions annually-according to Visa USA.

These smaller merchants - such as independently owned hotels -- don't always have the technology to provide the secure systems needed in today's increasingly risky financial world. Worse, many hotel owners dismiss the problem because they think they are protected by their merchant acquirers. But they are not.

Indeed, as payment technology becomes more sophisticated, so do hackers' and thieves' methods for stealing sensitive information. And the results can be disastrous for any business, regardless of size.

For example, Massachusetts-based TJX Companies Inc., the world's leading off-price apparel and home fashions retailer, experienced a major customer credit and debit card data breach last January. It turned out to be the most expensive cybercrime ever recorded, with over 45.6 million customer credit and debit card numbers stolen.

Besides $150 million in breach costs, the company now faces FTC investigations, over a dozen lawsuits, with some litigation seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages. Analysts project the breach could ultimately cost TJX anywhere from $500 million to nearly $1 billion in expenses.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.