Let me say this first. I'm a big believer in mobile payments. Having worked with companies like Visa and VeriFone for many years, I truly believe that mobility will revolutionise how we pay, get paid and manage our finances. However recent experiences with Barclays Pingit has put this belief to the test.
I really liked Pingit. Compared to other offerings (I'll name no names) it was simple to set up, easy to use and solved a genuine need. I started to pay friends and family using Pingit rather than going online to make a bank transfer because it was easy to do so on the move. My friends, both Barclays and non-Barclays customers registered with the service and were able to accept payments and make payments. Everything was hunky dory.
That was until my friends and family started to change their handsets. One of my closest friends upgraded from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5 and reinstalled the Pingit app. This is when the trouble started.
Despite spending a great deal of time jumping through all the required hoops the app couldn't be linked to his new phone. Unfortunately it took a while for my friend to let me know he was having problems. In the meantime I'd been transferring funds to him via Pingit. These funds now cannot be accessed.
Barclays certainly haven't covered themselves in glory. My friend (who was kind enough to download and use Pingit in the first place) and I have spoken to Barclays numerous times, being passed between call centre operators with no one seeming to know how to solve the problem. To add insult to injury he has now been asked by Barclays to visit a branch to prove his identity. Going to a physical branch to resolve a mobile issue has a certain irony...
At the time of writing, the fault hasn't been resolved and neither my friend nor I can access the money I sent him. My funds are sitting in limbo.
Re-provisioning an app for a handset should be pretty straightforward stuff. I've moved my Sky Go app to numerous devices over the years without any trouble. If I did have a problem re-provisioning Sky Go it would be annoying but not the end of the world. The same cannot be said for Pingit. When it comes to payments and peoples' money the stakes are much higher.
I'm not the first person to take umbrage with the service. BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones attempted to live without cash last year and tried Pingit. He said, "I never got it [Pingit] to work, even after deleting the app and going through the lengthy verification system again."
The reliability and ease of use of new payment methods is a growing issue. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently reviewed the mobile banking and mobile payments landscape in the UK and issued an interim report. The FCA identified a number of areas of possible concern including "interruption to services" through system or IT failures potentially locking customers out of their accounts. So it is clear my experiences are not isolated.
As mobile payments grows out of infancy, it's critical that providers understand that they are providing a service not just a product. New banking and payment technology is alien to most, so ongoing consumer education and strong customer service are critical. Banks and payment companies need to look beyond technology and focus on the broader business of these next generation services if they are to be successful. Fintech PR and communications is a powerfull tool in educating both consumers and the wider industry.