Improving Revenue Collection Through Integration
How to integrate payment acceptance and processing to improve revenue collection, increase security, and deliver a better experience to residents and employees
This article was originally published by the Center for Digital Government
Uncertain economic times increase the need for prompt and complete revenue collection in every government. Yet with many government offices closed, it can be hard for residents and business owners to find out what they owe, make payments (especially with cash), resolve issues, or request a payment plan.
These issues are compounded when a constituent must deal with multiple departments, each with its own payment system and processes. Multiple payment systems also create costly inefficiencies for government, especially when those systems are aging and difficult to expand or update.
A single, integrated payment system across a department, agency, or jurisdiction can help overcome these challenges. A single payment system might include multiple payment channels, such as online, cashiering, and kiosk; multiple payment types, such as water bills, parking tickets, and business taxes; and handle all tender types: cash, check, card, and digital payments.
Multiple Payment Systems, Multiple Challenges
Today’s fragmented systems for receiving and processing payments produce inefficiencies and frustrations. It’s harder for staff and residents to track payment status and resolve problems such as a duplicate transaction. A complex experience may lead to missed or incomplete payments.
Multiple payment systems also create infrastructure, network, and IT management inefficiencies. More potential points of failure can lead to system outages and slow performance.
Data security is also a bigger concern, because multiple systems and network connections create a larger attack surface. These vulnerabilities make it difficult for IT teams to maintain strong security controls, which can lead to audit and compliance issues.
Better Payments Through Integration
A single payment system that is used enterprise-wide eliminates the drawbacks of separate systems while better serving constituents and government. For example, a resident or business customer can see all payments due and pay them in one transaction using cash, card, check, or even a mobile wallet.
The payment system can be integrated with back-office systems through APIs. High-quality integrations offer several advantages:
- More detailed information available in both the payment system and the agencies’ existing business systems
- While keeping existing business systems, the city can upgrade their online customer experience to provide user-friendly payments on any desktop or mobile device
- Agencies can dynamically enforce business rules on each account — for example, removing the check payment option if a customer has previously returned checks
- Customers can look up their current balance, and can verify information such as addresses to reduce errors
- A customer who looks up their balance after payment sees a satisfied obligation right away, and customer service staff can answer questions about a specific transaction immediately after it’s made
Stronger Security and Compliance Measures
An integrated payment system also helps IT strengthen data and application security and reduce the burden of compliance through:
Fewer points of potential failure. Fewer applications, servers, and network connections involved reduces the potential for outages and problems that impact system performance.
Better security visibility. An integrated system makes it easier to see existing vulnerabilities and new threats as they emerge. Features for traceability allow staff to detect potential transaction fraud or unauthorized system access.
Simpler security management. Support for single sign-on by users and existing security measures in workflows simplify management for the IT team. Solution vendors and cloud providers can offer expertise for security design, monitoring, and response.
Easier compliance with standards. Meeting requirements of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard is a burden for many public-sector organizations. With an integrated payment solution, PCI compliance is handled by the solution vendor and cloud provider.
Given the complexity and critical nature of payments, the move to a single system is best made in stages. Several strategies can help you on that journey.
First, clarify the goals and critical challenges of all departments and services that will be brought into the new payment system. Share this input with vendors so they can propose the best solution and deployment plan.
Next, plan a phased implementation across the enterprise. In most cases, it is best to start with the central treasury or accounting team, then expand to other departments after initial success.
A similar strategy is to start with only web payments, which typically have the simplest workflow. Once created and confirmed for web payments, the integrations can also serve kiosk and over-the-counter cashier transactions.
Finally, offer training so employees have a clear understanding of how to use the system, especially for interactions with customers.
Making Payments Easy
Timely and complete collection of all payments owed is vital to maintaining government operations, especially during tough economic times. This is easier to achieve when it’s simpler for customers to make payments. An integrated system makes it easier and more convenient for people to make online and in-person payments. This improves the revenue collection experience for both customers and government employees.
Integrated Payments Snapshots
Three government entities partnering with CityBase for an integrated payment system offer insights:
San Francisco: Payment Consolidation
The City and County of San Francisco wanted to consolidate its 300,000 annual electronic payments into a single system that would be easy for both residents and staff to use. Today, a cloud-based payment solution integrates with records, billing, and other source systems while improving the user experience and reducing staff time spent on manual processes.
San José: Business Tax Amnesty
A centralized online hub allowed the City of San José, California, to digitize overdue payments and exemption requests in the city’s business tax amnesty program. An online form helps businesses easily calculate and pay the taxes they owe while eliminating manual data entry by city staff and costs of paper bills. In the first three months, the new digitized process led to 1,500 businesses newly registering with the city and paying taxes for the first time.
Marshfield: Self-Service Kiosk Payments
The Town of Marshfield, Massachusetts, is implementing 24/7 self-service payments for in-person customers via outdoor payment kiosk. Residents can use card, check, or cash to pay for beach stickers, real estate and property taxes, liquor licenses, gas permits, water and trash bills, dog licenses, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and more. Kiosk payments are integrated to Marshfield’s financial management platform and billing system, enabling a completely automated reconciliation process with the treasury and all underlying departments.