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Cashing in on technology

05 August 2016

Schools are increasingly embracing the power of technology, engaging daily with both pupils and parents ensuring that the pupil and parent experience is as seamless as possible. Harnessing the advances in systems solutions schools have always strived to be at the forefront of EPoS and cashless technology. With a need to manage controlled payments, the loading of funds, meal allowances, school trips and events combined with a parental overview it was really the first sector within catering to push for a fully cashless environment something which we have only just recently seen being adopted on the high street.

Many schools have traditionally used paper and card based systems but many are now offering biometrics, locker key fobs and wrist bands in addition to, or as an alternative to a card.

Cashless means different things to different people but in the school environment it is always a Closed Loop Scheme – the school gets the cash in advance and payment is restricted to school outlets.

There are many benefits to the Closed Loop Scheme. For one, there is the reduced costs of handling cash and the costs associated with movements of cash to and from the establishment. Then there’s the elimination of staff time spent in collecting cash from the points of sale, providing floats, and management of change. There’s also a reduction in audit requirements. This also provides for a much more secure environment for both the pupil and the school administrator. With a reduced cost of insurance.

Electronic processing of transactions reduces the opportunity for fraud or theft while providing quick access to detailed transaction history to provide full and rapid audit of the operation and detection of anomalies. Parents can review the eating habits of their child throughout the year ensuring the right choices are being made during meal times.

Payments can be made by loading funds with their debit/credit cards over the internet via a desktop PC, tablet or Smartphone. Importantly it also allows parents and system administrators to load funds into an account where the expenditure can be restricted, typically for meal time payments, bursaries and free meal entitlements. This encourages increased loads given the nature of the controls that surround the expenditure.

MCR’s SymPAY offers various client driven features. For example, loyalty points can be accumulated on a designated purse on the card triggered on numerous user activities, ranging from, spending at a designated location to triggers simply based on the level of spend. These loyalty points can then be re-deemed, either automatically or by prompt, in various ways designated by the student. Triggers range from the location to the purchase of products, or a combination of triggers. Products can also be configured individually to take advantage of any available country specific tax benefits e.g. lower tax rates for pupils and staff, eat in / eat off premises, etc. Groups of cards can be issued to specific staff departments to manage the provision of services to them too. At the end of a period, total departmental expenditure can be calculated and charged. During the period total departmental spend, by card, can be accessed and managed more efficiently thus reducing cost. Another advantage is that visitors and contractors to the school can be issued temporary cards or download the App. The product pricing to these ad hoc account holders can then be adjusted to full commercial rates, if required. Deposits can also be collected and refunded to them, with any remaining card balances.

MCR Systems is currently working with a number of third party system providers such as ParentPay and Schoolgateway to deliver full integration offering a single purse for cashless loading and payment for all catering, library, memberships, travel, school events and shop sales. This will enable parents to do away with the pinch point of having to load up different purses and use different cards/apps when utilising all paid services throughout. This streamlines the whole payment operation and provides greater flexibility for pupils, parents and school administrators. Integration with pupil registration systems eliminates the need for duplication of database input.

Of course, there are other new technologies out there, too. Click and Collect is possible for in-app ordering and purchasing direct to an order point. Parents can order goods and services for either collection or delivery. Digital receipts are coming to the fore – which saves on not only costs of the paper in the receipt printer but also time in processing the transaction – as well as photo recognition. For added security and customer interaction, systems can produce the image of the account holder on the EPoS terminal when an account card or mobile app is presented. Payment cards can include loyalty accounts with voucher notifications and special offers that can be sent to account holders phones based on birthday dates, buying history and habits. The ability to utilise these kind of accounts at vending machines and self-service kiosks, eradicating the need for cash, is also on the rise.

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