By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
Remember selling merchant services when all you needed were paper applications, a few sample merchant statements, and some pictures of countertop and portable terminals? Times have changed; we're not a one-size-fits-all business anymore. Our profession has evolved from a cottage industry of regional banks into a multibillion-dollar global enterprise. Merchant level salespeople (MLSs) need more knowledge and creativity to compete in today's high-speed, always-on world where much of our commerce is conducted digitally.
Technology changes all the time, but the hallmarks of a robust processing system remain the same, year after year. The best way to convince a merchant to upgrade a dated but reliable system is to emphasize the qualities that make the upgraded setup secure, flexible, scalable and future-proof.
When it comes to selling processing systems, security is job one. The most advanced solutions are no less immune from data breaches than are legacy devices like the Tranz330 and T7P.
It's not only the technology that needs to be compliant. One of our responsibilities is to educate our merchants on the right way to transmit, process and store cardholder data. According to Chris Bucolo, Senior Business Development Manager at ControlScan Inc., "We have seen more and more evidence that ISOs and acquirers are integrating PCI compliance discussions into the sales process, no longer waiting until after the merchant is boarded. Paying attention to the compliance status of systems, applications and the merchants themselves has taken center stage during the sales process."
Why is flexibility a must-have for merchants these days? Simply stated, without the ability to continuously adapt to the increasingly fluid, evolving scope of payment technology, merchants will be stuck with obsolete, outdated equipment.
The warp-speed of innovation is affecting all industries: Health care, transportation, education, military, and government professionals use secure, enterprise-level wireless networks that enable office and remote workers to stay connected and exchange documents and data through email, text messaging and geolocation technologies.
Merchants need the same kind of integrated environment where updates to remote devices can be performed from a central network host quickly and seamlessly. Such an environment would enable merchants to react quickly to emerging trends in social media, gift and loyalty programs, and the value-added applications that are an integral part of most processing systems.
Flexible processing environments are ultimately green and self-sustaining ecosystems, continually adapting to merchants' changing requirements and needs.
Merchants who process through gateways have a high degree of flexibility and choice. Credit card transactions from a diverse population of devices can be viewed in real-time from a secure access point. Equipment swaps, software modification, wireless activation and device download can all be controlled from a secure portal with greater ease and without any disruptions to service.
Multi-application environments, where downloads of ancillary programs can be done without disturbing primary payment programs, provide flexibility and business continuity. Equipment rentals and swap-out programs are other ways to keep merchants in the most flexible and up-to-date processing environments. Many of these merchant clubs and rental programs include help-desk support and overnight equipment replacement in their monthly fee
Growth is imperative to any business. Innovations in technology have accelerated POS product life cycles, lowering life expectancies of many terminals and PIN pads due to evolving compliance standards and communications protocols. Considering how quickly our technology is changing, how can we provide services that expand as our merchants grow?
Many merchants looking for scalability are using virtual terminals. These systems offer merchants the option of buying what they need when they need it, with increased capacity available on-demand. These Internet-based products, typically priced with monthly gateway and per-transaction fees, are an affordable alternative to countertop and portable single-use devices. They can be accessed through smart phones or laptops or from almost anywhere through a secure web portal.
Services, managed remotely by professionals at centralized controllers, are easily accessible through web browsers. Managing capacity is as simple as adding or removing users. Batch processing options are available for merchants who manage high volumes of transactions. Reputable gateways and cloud-based networks absorb some but not all liability for Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance and secure management of cardholder data.
Helping merchants build secure, flexible and scalable processing systems is a long-term proposition that extends over the lifetime of the relationship; it's not a "one-call close." Merchants are too focused on their core businesses to spend time researching the latest trends in payment processing; they rely on timely, valuable recommendations from a trusted network, noted Alexandra Best, Vice President, Marketing at RewardStream Inc.
"The trusted network is assuming an increasingly important place in the purchase decision life cycle across many industry sectors," she said. "In a world where consumers are in control and information's there for the taking, the word of a trusted advisor with experience of a product or service is critical to validating the decision.
"Today's consumer places the same level of trust in family and friends as they do a close contact in a social networking site. All businesses must consider how trust-based networks - or what we refer to as recommendation marketing - will figure in their marketing and sales efforts going forward."
In this age of relationship marketing, the payment professional's ultimate goal should not be closing sales but opening relationships, where becoming part of a trusted network is a true value proposition. It's not only merchants who are looking to MLSs for guidance. We've evolved into a broader community where we all advise each other on products and services.
Joining this conversation is a logical first step toward finding common ground, where MLSs and merchants can partner to build future-proof networks and look out for their shared best interests in the expanding payments sphere.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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