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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 27, 2009 • Issue 09:07:02

Use technology to tighten relationships, expand revenue

By Shan Ethridge
TASQ Technology Inc.

Challenging economic times call for a renewed focus on providing higher levels of value and service. As business needs fluctuate, payments industry professionals - such as ISOs, merchant level salespeople (MLSs), acquiring banks and processors - are faced with new challenges. Meanwhile, merchants of all sizes still need reliable products and services.

Despite the economic downturn, opportunities exist to serve small businesses with solutions that support their current needs and allow room for future growth. By looking to new technologies and selecting the right solution providers, ISOs and MLSs and others doing business in the payments sphere can achieve sales and service objectives, while demonstrating enhanced capabilities to meet merchants' business priorities.

Bundling up

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, ISOs and MLSs require more than pricing and equipment to make relationships with merchants sticky. Bundled solutions present an opportunity to expand and deepen relationships with existing customers. In addition, bundling can broaden service providers' appeal to new, diverse industries through more comprehensive, end-to-end service offerings.

When seeking partners, it's important to consider what should be included in a solution bundle. In addition to hardware, software and processing, key factors are service and support (including equipment repairs, customer care and obtaining supplies for merchants).

Running a business is rarely an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. proposition. So technology and support that can accommodate an entrepreneur's busy schedule also should be considered. That means 24/7 customer service and sales reps being personally available to merchants day and night.

The ability to offer robust customer service, repairs and help-desk support expands a merchant service provider's capabilities. Providing consistent service options can allow ISOs and MLSs to get closer to their customers by giving them reliable and convenient services they trust.

When it comes to new technologies, bundled solutions also can create an opportunity for ISOs and MLSs to offer new solutions more quickly and focus on selling rather than piecing together individual components.

The ability to offer customers and prospects new services that support overall business processes can ultimately help ISOs assume a consultative role and open up new customer opportunities.

A cozy solution

Remote deposit capture (RDC) can help ISOs and MLSs build upon their current merchant relationships, as well as open the door to new ones. The ability to deposit checks from work or home saves time and travel to banks. It can even help businesses access deposited funds more quickly - no more waiting until it's "worth it" to go to the bank.

Many ISOs and MLSs are aware of RDC, but they don't always know where to begin to create an RDC solution for their customers.

For most sales reps, a practical RDC approach is one that allows them to offer customers an easy-to-use solution, including check scanners, deposit software and customer service without having to do the legwork to integrate these elements.

Finding a solution that bundles these services and offers the opportunity to tailor scanners and software to the customers' needs provides the best of both worlds: a turnkey solution that also can be tailored to meet the needs of a merchant portfolio.

One essential element of a complete RDC solution is the ability of merchants to take advantage of the convenience of RDC without having to change financial institutions.

MLSs can go into a sale without having to convince merchants to switch banks. Rather, they can focus on offering new and existing customers a better solution.

RDC can also boost a merchant service provider's bottom line. In today's precarious economy, many debit and credit transactions (which typically serve as a main source of monthly income for ISOs and MLSs) are for smaller amounts. RDC may provide another avenue of stable revenue.

Depending on the contract, RDC can generate income through monthly recurring fees, monthly per-item fees and upfront hardware revenue. In some cases, the solutions provider will underwrite the merchant, reducing the risk to ISOs.

One of the most compelling reasons for ISOs and MLSs to add new technologies to their offerings is the opportunity to expand their bankcard processing customer base.

In the case of RDC, some merchants - for instance day care centers, home-based businesses or health care providers - may overlap with credit, debit and other electronic forms of acceptance. However, RDC also appeals to professional services businesses such as law firms, accounting practices and other companies that primarily receive payments by check.

New touch points

In addition, technology also can generate ways for ISOs and MLSs to get closer to their existing customers while also creating new revenue streams.

Merchants need to purchase paper, cables, printer ribbons and other consumables for their payment systems as part of the normal course of business. ISOs and MLSs may be able to work with solution providers to create branded, online stores where merchants can order supplies, allowing them convenient access to a full range of consumable, POS products.

Online ordering creates additional convenience for merchants and usually creates a low-maintenance revenue stream for the sales force.

The site doesn't replace the merchant's relationship with the service provider, but it does provide added flexibility for merchant customers. Systems that allow merchants to browse by equipment also can save time - no more returning of unsuitable supplies to the office products store.

Additionally, some programs allow merchant service providers to set up different pricing options for their portfolios, so agreements about providing a set number of free rolls of paper, for instance, can be honored online.

Loving that value-add

Even in an uncertain economy, payment professionals can take advantage of new revenue opportunities and customer touch points by embracing new technologies and offering valuable ways to both serve and interact with customers.

It can be daunting to identify and create solutions that embrace new technologies. Finding the right solutions and partner can help merchant service providers move beyond the "nice to know you" of new technologies to the "let's get together," thus putting technologies to work for their customers and businesses. end of article

Shan Ethridge is the Division Manager for TASQ Technology, one of the largest providers of POS equipment and services in North America. You can reach him at 916-435-3767 or shan@tasq.com.

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