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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 23, 2010 • Issue 10:08:02

Technical details: What to share and what to spare

By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.

Have you ever felt like a deer in the headlights during a whiteboard exercise? Merchants can feel that way when we get too technical. Most wouldn't know the difference between an 8-bit and 32-bit ARM processor. They get brain freeze trying to read a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). They rely on merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to replace broken equipment. They just want to keep transactions flowing; they aren't interested in becoming payment processing experts.

But there's a downside to avoiding technical details. Merchants who don't understand our services will be more susceptible to competitive offers and fraudulent transactions. Taking time to educate them will build stronger relationships and pave the way for referrals; it will also help them identify the warning signs when unscrupulous customers or solicitors walk through their doors.

So how can we share just the right amount of technical information with our prospects and customers, without overwhelming them or losing their attention? The key is to make our technology relevant by observing it from a merchant's point of view. Features and benefits are only meaningful when they answer a need or solve a merchant's problem.

Following are guidelines for informing nontechnical audiences about our industry's fees, regulations and technology.

Discussing interchange

Despite the more than 100 variations of qualified and nonqualified bankcard transactions in our current processing environment, many merchants will still ask, "What's your rate?" To foster understanding:

  • Share a chart of current interchange rates during sales calls to establish transparency and trust while demonstrating the complexity of interchange. Also, show prospects a sample merchant statement to explain your own pricing.

  • Encourage merchants to visit Visa Inc.'s and MasterCard Worldwide's website sections devoted to merchants at http://usa.visa.com/merchants/index.html#/page1 and www.mastercard.com/us/merchant/index.html, respectively, to get a detailed overview of current interchange rates and card brand rules.

  • Spare the details of each individual interchange category to avoid losing your prospects' interest and your own momentum as you close sales. You can honestly say that interchange is a work in progress subject to ongoing review by the card brands and emerging government oversight.

Talking about security

Considering how much resource processors, ISOs and third-party providers have invested in understanding and implementing the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS), how can we condense this information into pertinent sound bites to educate our merchants? Here are some tips:

  • Share the PCI bottom-line message of protecting cardholder data. Emphasize that the PCI DSS protects merchants as well as their customers. Many merchants who have heard about the high-profile security breaches at major retailers may not realize the highest percentage of fraud is occurring at Level 4 merchants like themselves.

  • Explain why it's no longer acceptable or legal to store receipts that have complete card numbers, expiration dates and addresses on them.

  • Spare the implementation details. Build a case for creating a security strategy and explain that PCI is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Convey that the process begins with an SAQ but doesn't end there; the SAQ will clarify and expose weaknesses in a merchant's processing environment so the right security tools can be applied.

  • Refer merchants to your company's chosen PCI specialists who can work directly with them to create a security framework that not only meets current standards, but is also flexible enough to meet the changing requirements of the evolving payments sphere.

Homing in on hardware

If you were a merchant, what would you look for in a credit card processing system? Would you care more about looks or performance, high speed or low price? Answers will differ according to the personalities, preferences and priorities of each customer.

Your first priority is to understand each customer's motivations. Too many MLSs err in recommending a product to fit the needs of a business instead of a person. A small business owner with big aspirations might be offended if you suggest a low-end credit card terminal for processing. Similarly, a high-profile retailer operating on low margins and a reduced budget is not necessarily a candidate for a fully loaded, customized processing system.

Here's what to do:

  • Share an overview of your product line, briefly highlighting the advantages of each device. Reassure customers that the system they invest in today is scalable and designed to grow in direct proportion to their business requirements. Make them aware of buyback or upgrade programs your company offers.

  • Avoid technical details that can be easily found on the reverse side of a product brochure by those who care about megahertz, Underwriters Laboratories listings and other data that's of more use to engineers than business owners. Focus on the business side of things by emphasizing profitability, trustworthiness and ease of use.

Suggesting the right software

Internet connectivity has increased demand for credit card processing applications with multiple access points that can be incorporated into larger enterprise operating systems.

Merchants can choose from an array of processing software, from traditional countertop and mobile terminal applications to virtual terminals and payment applets that blend into accounting software and larger POS management systems.

There is so much choice in today's processing software that merchants can become overwhelmed and have difficulty making decisions. The best approach in helping merchants choose the right fit in processing software is to get a sense of their requirements. To do this:

  • Spare a complete rundown of every different type of software and operating system on the market. Focus instead on the systems that are most appropriate to your clients' businesses.

  • Share how a new system can save time, solve a problem or create new revenue streams, and merchants will be more motivated to make the software investment.

Whether you are managing a territory or a team of agents, your ability to organize the details of your business will be a key factor in your success. Knowing what to share and what to spare will pave the way to peak performance. end of article

Dale S. Laszig is Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale_laszig@castech.com.tw

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