“Customer recognition will revolutionize fuel card payments”- Our CEO sits down with PaymentEye

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Paying for fuel is an experience that – despite the rapid evolution of the payment experience over the last ten years – hasn’t evolved a great deal in the last thirty years. Fuel cards and fleet cards are in need of innovation – the question is: where will that innovation come from, and when?

Dr. Mark Goldspink, CEO, The ai Corporation, explains why, as ever, data is key, and how customer recognition is set to change the face of fuel and fleet cards for businesses.


A key issue for fuel and fleet card providers is customer loyalty – how can this be better maintained?

I think one if the issues the industry is facing is the age of some of the fuel card issuing platforms, and the other is the ability of providers to see the information in real time. Real time information will help them to further understand their customer and be sensitive to their needs. Data is key – being able to understand the customer’s behaviour is integral to maintaining their loyalty.


How can fuel and fleet cards better serve the fuel providers, as well as the businesses purchasing cards?

The fuel card closed loop products means that they don’t have to pay into schemes and can create their own financial solutions. The major difference between the standard purchasing card and the fuel card is the data – the amount of data that passes through a fuel card is much greater that a standard bank card.

Fleet managers need this data to manage their fleets. Things like mileage are important, driver behaviour, etc. This is vital information that is available and should be passed on. The other big difference is VAT reclamation. Obviously, fuel is a significant cost for a transportation business, and being able to reclaim the VAT has a massive impact to cash flow. The efficiency a fuel card presents in this instance is a major advantage over standard purchasing cards.


How can emerging paytech, such as biometrics, improve the payment experience for fleet card providers and businesses?

I think this is a really good question. Frictionless payments have got to happen everywhere. If you asked a customer how long it took them to refuel, their answers would always be ten times longer than the actual time it took – around two to three minutes. It’s just one of those perceptual things – that filling up your car is a very boring thing to do. A lot of things have been tried to improve the refueling experience, speeding up the pumps, pay at the pump or fast fueling lanes are all good examples.

On this basis, I think the future has to be recognition technology – the ability to recognise either the vehicle or the individual, meaning the payment occurs in the background. Some of the technology being developed in this area is very impressive, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason why license plates couldn’t be used in this way.

Paying for fuel is, unfortunately, not one of the most exciting things in life. The question has to be, how can we make it simpler and quicker? The answer must be making it as frictionless as possible, fully automated and with the payment taking place in the background.


The driver payment experience hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years, but recent innovation seeks to make the process more frictionless. What do you think needs to change here, and is there a limit to how frictionless the fuel payment process can be?

Oil companies are highly innovative organisations. Similarly, to the financial world, whenever something is attempted that involves some level of risk, there’s going to be some resistance. There’s always a balance between security and customer convenience, the contactless card being a good example. While it allows for more convenient payments for the consumer, there’s also an increased risk of card present fraud.

During my time in the oil sector, we looked at various solutions, such as filling up drivers’ cars while they were asleep, robotic pumps, automated c-stores and so on. In Turkey, for example, there are RFID tags by the nozzles, so you can pay immediately. These solutions are out there, it’s a question of adoption and often one of regulation too.

For many years we told everybody not to use their mobile phones on forecourts, whereas now mobile payments are on the rise and provide another payment solution. It is therefore a case of balancing regulations to make sure what goes on onsite isn’t going to be in any way dangerous to the public. It’s not that fuel retailers aren’t trying, it’s purely adoption rates and regulation.


How can emerging paytech improve KYC?

Back to where we started- real time data. Currently the flow of data means it’s more difficult to access the information businesses require in the KYC process. Taking a snapshot of a customer is a problem, because there are a series of things that could have happened in that snapshot, both good and bad, which will influence the direction taken.

There has to be more dynamic sources that will allow businesses to make better informed decisions over a longer period of time. This space is always moving forward, and some countries are further ahead than others – the UK, for example, is very advanced in this respect. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to that balance between the rights of the individual and the surge for progress.