Introducing your new GoCardless dashboard

When we started GoCardless 5 years ago we wanted to make Direct Debit accessible to companies who’d never had access before. We built a product that was simple and intuitive and soon had the privilege of helping thousands of small businesses collect payment.

Then, 2 years ago, some of the UK’s largest companies started using us, and some of our early adopters were growing into large companies themselves. They loved the simplicity of GoCardless but wanted additional power and flexibility. To support them we built GoCardless Pro, with its own dashboard and API.

Now, we're pleased to be able to give everyone access to the GoCardless Pro dashboard. We’ve used your feedback to make it more intuitive than ever, whilst having the power and flexibility to grow with your business:

There are hundreds of improvements in the new GoCardless product, but instead of giving you a full list of every change, here’s a very quick summary of five of our favourite new features:

1. A clearer and easier-to-use dashboard

The first thing you'll notice when you sign in to your new dashboard is the brand new look - it’s had a full makeover and the most important information is now placed front and centre. As soon as you log in to the new dashboard, you’ll get an immediate overview of what you’re owed, how much you’ve collected and what’s currently due. We've also improved the way we show your payments and customers to make this much clearer and easier to use. Get a real-time overview of everything in your account, and easily filter down to the most relevant information.

2. Multiple users: share access to your GoCardless account

With the new GoCardless dashboard, you can share access to your account with other people in your business. Not only can you add multiple users to your account, you’ll be able to individually control their access rights and permissions - for instance, you could give your bookkeeper read-only access so they’ll be able to reconcile payments without making changes to the account.

3. Paylinks: An easier way to take one-off payments

From within your account, you can now create Paylinks - an intuitive and user-friendly way to take one-off payments. With Paylinks you have the option to collect additional payments from the same customer without the customer needing to add their bank details each time.

4. Events log: Keep track of the status of your payments

We’ve introduced a new Events tab from which you can see a complete timeline of your account’s activity, or simply use the filters to narrow down the search to the activity type and date range you’re looking for. You can also click on any item to view a more detailed description of the event such as why a mandate couldn’t be set up or a payment failed.

5. Improved search and filtering: Find the information that matters to you

We’ve built out the search functionality to include payment amounts, charge dates, payment descriptions, metadata references... pretty much anything that can be found in your dashboard! If that wasn’t enough, you can even list multiple terms at once to to filter your results more effectively and find what you’re looking for even faster.

When will I see the new GoCardless dashboard?

The new dashboard will be rolled out from April 2016. We’ll be in touch with all merchants via e-mail over the next few weeks with further information about the upgrade.

As we move all our merchants over to the new dashboard, we want to make sure we keep iterating and improving our product. In the new dashboard, there’s a built-in feedback tool that’s never more than one click away - you’ll always be able to find this in the bottom-left corner of your dashboard. Any comments and feedback you have on the dashboard will be hugely appreciated by the team and will help us to shape the product going forward.

Through the rest of 2016, we have ambitious plans to continue building the best product for taking recurring payments online both in the UK and further afield. As we strive to create a new payment network for the internet, we’ll continue pushing forward with new features and updates shaped by your feedback.

Getting started with the new dashboard

We know that change can sometimes feel a bit scary, but we promise you, this is an easy and worthwhile upgrade.

We’ll inform you ahead of time about exactly when you’ll be upgraded to your dashboard. This upgrade won’t require any work on your behalf: all of your customers, payments, and account information will be moved over automatically to the new dashboard. Once upgraded, just login as normal and you can start using your new and improved GoCardless dashboard.

To help you better get a feel of the new dashboard before upgrading, you can watch the short video demo at the beginning of this blog post.

We’ve also put together a comprehensive FAQ that will answer your questions about using the new dashboard. Finally, as always, you can contact our team for any questions you have either about using the new product or about your GoCardless account. If you have any queries, please send us a message through this form.

Thank you!

We also want to say a huge thank you to all of our merchants who have helped us to get to where we are today. We honestly couldn’t have done this without each and every one of you. The new dashboard is a major milestone for GoCardless, and we hope we can continue to delight you as we make further improvements to our service.

New API Version - 2015-07-06

Version 2015-07-06 is released today, with the following changes:

  • Removes /helpers endpoint from the API
  • Renames subscription start_at and end_at to start_date and end_date
  • Enforces date format when passing a payment charge_date

For the majority of integrations, the upgrade will be extremely simple, but we will continue our support for v2015-04-29 until the 6th of January, 2016.

Upgrading

Upgrading to the new API version should be extremely simple:

  1. Update your version header:

    GoCardless-Version: 2015-07-06
    
  2. If you use the subscriptions endpoint, update your integration to use start_date and end_date keys instead of start_at and end_at.

  3. If you generate PDF mandates, update your integration to use the new mandate_pdfs endpoint.

  4. If you use the old /helpers/modulus_check endpoint, update your code to use the new bank_details_lookups endpoint.

Why are GoCardless making these changes?

The above changes achieve two improvements to the GoCardless API:

  1. Dates now all have an _date key, whilst timestamps all have an _at key.

  2. All endpoints act as first class resources. Previously the /helpers endpoints were inconsistent with the rest of the API, making them harder to use.

Off the back of these changes we will release version 1.0 of our Java and Ruby client libraries this week. Python and PHP will follow shortly afterwards.

Need help upgrading or have any questions?
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in Engineering

Ibandit: simple IBAN manipulation

We just open-sourced Ibandit, a simple library for working with IBANs.

Continue reading...

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in Engineering

Charge date added to bulk payments

We're really excited to announce that it is now possible to specify a charge date when making bulk payment submissions. This has long been one of our most requested features that will enable businesses to upload multiple payment CSVs less often - saving time so that they can concentrate on the more important parts of their business.

Specifying a charge date is really simple

After you have generated a template CSV file, you will find a new column called 'Charge Date' - just enter the date that you would like the customer's payment to be charged from their account (using the format DD/MM/YYYY).

Future features

In the coming months we hope to release many similar features that help make Direct Debit simpler for businesses everywhere. If you have any feedback about enhancements that you would like to see, just pop an email to help@gocardless.com

Log in to your dashboard to try it out
Import payments
in Business

Switching Direct Debit provider is as easy as 1-2-3

One of the most common questions we're asked is "can I transfer my existing Direct Debit customers to GoCardless?" The answer is yes: there's a simple process for this called "bulk change".

We've written about all the technical details of bulk change in our Direct Debit guide, but in a nutshell:

  1. Your customers don't need to lift a finger. There's no need for your customers to set up new mandates to you, or to "opt in" to the change. All that's required is that they're notified of the transfer.
  2. The process takes around 4 weeks. From start to finish, it takes around 4 weeks to transfer providers. You can still collect payments using your existing provider for all but 5 working days of that period.
  3. You'll need to know your customers' details. Transferring a mandate requires your customer's address, email, name and bank details. If you don't know these your current provider should be able to provide them to you.

GoCardless can manage the entire transfer process for you, as we have for companies like Greater Anglia Railways. We offer this service for completely free.

Interested in transferring to GoCardless?
Watch a Demo
in Engineering

Re-writing from scratch

Generally speaking, you should never rewrite from scratch. We recently discovered an exception: making fundamental changes to the UI of a (simple) web application. Counter-intuitively, starting from scratch made us much more iterative.

Background

The old GoCardless interface had been designed to make it easy to set up fixed payments. "PayLinks" were perfect for this - a single link with all the payment information embedded. Clicking one and completing our payment pages would set up a fixed payment plan to a merchant. Here's how the interface looked:

The old GoCardless dashboard

What "PayLinks" weren't good for was setting up and managing variable Direct Debits, against which ad-hoc future payments could be taken. These were quickly becoming our unique selling point to merchants.

Incorporating variable Direct Debits into our old interface required big changes in our UI. Not only were set up links required (as before), we needed functionality to manage customers once they were set up. No one was clear how to add this without adding significant complexity to the existing interface. Since simplicity is GoCardless's headline benefit that wasn't going to fly.

Our solution was to start from scratch in a new application. We built a new interface and then switched customers over. Here's what we learnt:

Starting from scratch let us iterate

Our old dashboards were at a local maximum, making it hard to iterate. Introducing elements of a variable Direct Debit interface would have added complexity, with no benefit until the whole new interface was ready.

For a fundamental change in UI that lack of iteration wasn't acceptable. Starting from scratch with an early beta let us to collect feedback on the new interface immediately. Our speed of iteration was also increased as we didn't have to worry about breaking an existing interface.

Starting from scratch let us launch faster

We launched our completely redesigned interface months before we tackled most of the harder problems in it. Initially launched for new customers only, in its first month the new interface added 10% to our revenue. 3 months in it accounts for 50%.

By building the new interface from scratch as a separate application, we were able to defer hard problems like migrating existing users over until after launch. Whilst we work on that migration the new interface is already having a positive effect on revenue.

Those tack-ons were there for a reason

As we rolled out our new interface to our older users, we heard requests for old features. Most were already on our roadmap, but there were others we'd missed. Typically, they were the small "fixes" that felt tacked on, but some users found essential.

After 3 months of iterations, for example, we've ended up with a top-level nav that looks spookily similar to before we started. Payments, customers, and payouts are all there, as is "Plans", which is very similar to "PayLinks":

The new GoCardless dashboard

We'd do it again

The cost of reimplementing existing features is obvious. Measuring the benefit of a rewrite is much harder. In our case, we've got no doubt that the benefits of an iterative approach outweighed the cost because it helped us escape a local maximum.

Adding an interface for variable Direct Debit was on our roadmap for 12 months, despite consistent demand from our users. 10 months of that delay were due to uncertainty around how to fit it into our existing product. That's a long time for any startup to be building the wrong things. Starting from scratch fixed that.

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in Business

Why we've published our special sauce

Last month, we published the recipe for our special sauce. We're a Direct Debit provider, and our Direct Debit guide contains almost everything we've learnt about the system in the last two years. We even published our study as a book to give to
our customers.

We set up GoCardless to help people, and publishing everything we've learnt about taking payments is part of that. We also think the business case makes sense.

Growing the pie

As a startup, GoCardless isn't just trying to grab a share of the existing UK Direct Debit industry - we're trying to disrupt it. In our case, that means giving access to thousands of small businesses who have never had automatic payments before. Publishing everything we know about Direct Debit helps us reach them.

A lot of the questions our customers ask us are about Direct Debit, not GoCardless. Most of them have never used the system before, and there's very little information about it available to small companies. Even worse, what is available often suggests Direct Debit has to be a complicated, expensive affair. Some of our customers tell us they'd looked at Direct Debit before and been put off.

By filling the content void, we want to help grow the market. If a small wholesaler stumbles across GoCardless they're much more likely to use Direct Debit than if they read the complicated technical information available from Bacs or enter an enterprise sales funnel at one of our traditional competitors.

Taking a bigger slice

Publishing our knowledge also helps us take a greater share of the existing, £1 trillion, UK Direct Debit market. It further establishes our reputation as the UK's Direct Debit experts, improves our search rankings, and provides the backbone for our marketing material.

As online specialists, GoCardless already helps some of the UK's largest companies process tens of thousands of monthly payments. To serve more we need a great reputation and great sales materials. Being the first name they see when they search also helps.

It's too early to tell if publishing everything we know about Direct Debit will take us to #1 on Google, but it's already materially affected our sales process. Distributing our guide to all serious prospects keeps us front-of-mind as they consider Direct Debit. Since we've kept the guide as impartial as possible it's genuinely useful to them.

Helping our competitors

The downside to publishing our special sauce is the opportunity it gives our competitors. Other Direct Debit providers now know how we do things, and new entrants can enter the market with the benefit of our experience.

We're not worried. Good competitors keep us disciplined, and help make GoCardless a great company. Even better, every success they have in broadening the UK Direct Debit market benefits us.

Find out more about how Direct Debit works.
Read our Direct Debit guide
in Business

SEPA Direct Debit - under the hood

GoCardless makes collecting SEPA Direct Debits incredibly simple by abstracting away the implementation details. If, however, you've ever wanted to peak under the hood at how SEPA works, this post is for you.

The SEPA Direct Debit system

Before we dive into an example payment collection, it's useful to spend a moment understanding how a payment scheme, and specifically SEPA, works. I've written about the features of SEPA Direct Debit before. Here I'm interested in what defines the scheme.

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Like any payment scheme, SEPA Direct Debit is essentially a set of rules agreed between banks. These rules define, amongst other things, access to the scheme, the payment submission process, and how failures are handled. Together, they fully specify the scheme.

There are actually two rulebooks for SEPA Direct Debit: one for a general scheme and one for B2B Direct Debits only. For now, collecting using the general scheme is safest as the B2B scheme is in its infancy. In future, GoCardless will take payment by B2B Direct Debit where possible, falling back to the general scheme where necessary.

The full rulebook for SEPA Direct Debit (core) is online. In the following sections we'll walk through its implications for collecting a payment.

Getting authorisation from the payer

Similarly to UK Direct Debit, to pay by SEPA Direct Debit the payer signs a mandate approving variable future payments. The mandate and signing process are both specified by the SEPA rulebook.

A SEPA mandate must display text on the payer's rights, and must collect specific details from them. The rulebook allows some flexibility in how these details are obtained. For example, the customer's IBAN and BIC can be generated them from more familiar details.

Once completed, a mandate needs to be signed. SEPA includes an e-Mandate scheme to do so through the payer's online banking, but it is currently unsupported by the banks. Instead, GoCardless maintains comprehensive logs of the 'electronic signature' the customer creates.

Submitting payments

Once a mandate is in place, payments can be collected by notifying the payer and submitting a request to the banks.

SEPA Direct Debit requires payers to be notified about each collection from their account. Just as for UK Direct Debits, these notifications may be for one or many payments and must be issued an agreed number of days in advance.

Once the payer has been notified, payment is initiated by submitting a file to the collector's "sponsor bank" (see below). This file is then distributed to the other banks involved in the transaction, who process the payment.

The "sponsor bank" system controls access to SEPA Direct Debit. A collector must first find a bank to sponsor them into the system. With GoCardless, however, there's no need to arrange a banking deal of your own - you can submit payments through us (and our sponsor bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland).

Receiving updates from the banks

Once payments have been submitted, it takes several days for them to clear (more on timings in a separate post). To help manage this delayed clearing, and to inform collectors if anything goes wrong, the banks send collectors messages. To avoid any ambiguity, these messages are sent as two-letter codes.

In many cases, such as a change in a customer's bank details, the banks' messages can be responded to automatically. In others, such as when a payment fails due to lack of funds, the response is up to the collector (e.g., whether to retry the payment).

Understanding and responding to these messages is crucial to collecting SEPA Direct Debit payments. GoCardless puts them in the context of your payments, and automates the response when it's clear. When it's not we describe the choices to you clearly.

How to get access

GoCardless will be beta testing SEPA Direct Debit in the coming weeks. Initially, we'll allow UK-based merchants to collect from select European countries. We'll then expand the countries we collect from to cover all of SEPA, and begin to serve non-UK merchants.

To be part of the GoCardless beta test register your interest here.

in Business

SEPA Direct Debit - an introduction

In a few months, GoCardless will become one of the first Direct Debit companies to offer collection from across Europe. We'll be doing this using the new SEPA Direct Debit scheme.

What is SEPA Direct Debit?

SEPA Direct Debit is a new payment scheme for collecting from any bank account in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).

The SEPA scheme works similarly to Direct Debit in the UK:

  • Payers authorise merchants to take variable future payments from their account by issuing them a mandate
  • Once this authorisation is in place, the merchant just needs to notify the customer before taking the payment automatically

SEPA's key innovation is to create a single system for collecting from across the Euro area. This pan-European system supersedes the national Direct Debit schemes it currently operates alongside. In February 2014 it will formally replace them.

Differences to UK Direct Debit

There are a few key features of SEPA Direct Debit that differ from the UK system:

  1. Currency - All SEPA Direct Debit transactions happen in Euros (even if the relevant accounts aren't in Euros). Any currency exchange required is up to the payer's and collector's banks
  2. Chargebacks - Under SEPA, payer's can query payments and get a refund from their bank for up to 13 months. Under UK Direct Debit the chargeback period is unlimited
  3. Bank details - To collect using SEPA Direct Debit, you need a customer's BIC and IBAN. Generally these can be generated from details the customer is more familiar with

In addition there are a lot of differences 'under the hood'. The way mandates are stored, payment timings, and the submission process are all different. I'll write more about these implementation details in a subsequent post, but for now it's worth noting that using GoCardless abstracts them away.

Where can and can't you collect from?

SEPA Direct Debit allows collection from almost all Euro-denominated bank accounts in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), including any account which is accessible by a national Direct Debit scheme. The accounts that are not accessible are generally savings accounts.

In addition, SEPA Direct Debit can be used to collect from some non-Euro accounts. Here, participation is at the discretion of the payer's bank, and GoCardless is in the process of determining each bank's policy.

How to get access

GoCardless will be beta testing SEPA Direct Debit in the coming weeks. Initially, we'll allow UK-based merchants to collect from select European countries. We'll then expand the countries we collect from to cover all of SEPA, and begin to serve non-UK merchants.

To be part of the GoCardless beta test register your interest here.

in Announcements

Your company name now appears on customer bank statements

We're pleased to announce an improvement to GoCardless: from now on, your company's name will show in the reference of your customers' Direct Debit Instructions. In most cases, that's shown on the bank statement.

Here's an example for a merchant called London Coffee:

To change it...

You can change the name that appears on new customers' bank statements. To do this, log into your GoCardless dashboard and click 'Settings'. You'll see the 'Merchant Settings' section:

At the bottom, simply edit the 'Name on Bank Statement' field to whatever you want. You can use a max of 12 characters. 

As always, if you have any feedback on the new feature, let us know - email us at help@gocardless.com.

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