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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 09, 2015 • Issue 15:03:01

How do you decide which terminals belong in your toolbox?

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

In 1987, I was in banking and, although the personal computer craze had begun a few years before, I was issued a Wang word processor. It had one purpose: to aid in the efficient creation of memos or letters. Text that was basically the same from one letter to the next could be saved in a template for future use, when needed, but if you wanted to know what the final product looked like you had to print it. The rest of the staff still used IBM Selectric typewriters.

Since we did not have email or other forms of electronic communication, having the ability to quickly write memos improved both my time management and my effectiveness.

I used this word processor for four years, even though office technology had evolved, and Windows-based computers had started to gain a foothold into even my staid, old-school bank. Whenever I was asked if I wanted to upgrade, my answer was, "No, it works."

Facing new technology

In hindsight now, it's easy to see that although my word processor worked, it had lost its efficiency for many reasons. These ranged from the need to read internal emails, which I had to do at my secretary's desk, to the need to complete tasks more quickly. I wasn't even aware that these were issues until I was forced to change. Ironically, by resisting the change I had hindered my development, as well as my productivity.

I flashed back to this situation during a recent conversation with an ISO partner. We were reminiscing about the terminals of the past, and she said, "It would be nice to have a terminal like those again. They were easy to use." She laughed and then added, "Maybe easy to use isn't the issue. Perhaps it's having to learn something new."

2015 is bringing many changes, and many will affect the terminal world. Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) and near field communication (NFC) are two examples of functionality that is no longer are discussed solely by industry professionals.

Matching technologies to needs

Merchants are getting hammered with calls telling them about EMV. And when they hear about Apple Pay and other newer technologies, they fear they may lose sales if they don't make improvements that provide them the ability to accept the types of payments their customers are now discovering and want to use.

In addition to the impact of EMV and NFC, memory demands created by the need for additional data has made many former stalwart terminals either inefficient or just plain slow. The published end-of-life dates set for many of the more commonly used terminals has also created additional concern.

Yet the demand for effective terminals remains. Yes, there is lots of conversation regarding comprehensive POS and tablet-based systems, and those will result in more sales and usage of newer technology. However, a merchant base remains for which traditional terminals remain the best solution.

That being said, it's not wise to just become an expert about one type of terminal and insist on its usage. Today, that would be like attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. But how do the merchant level salespeople (MLSs) identify what terminals best fit their needs, as well as the needs of their merchants?

Evaluating terminal options

The questions you need to ask when identifying which POS systems to add to your toolbox are similar to those that now must be asked about terminal solutions. Yet the following four questions take on greater importance.

  1. Which terminals have been certified by my chosen authorization provider or processing partner? Unlike POS systems that often provide their own technical support and are typically only Class B certified on many networks, most terminals used today are supported by the authorization provider. These devices are considered Class A.

    However, there are some that do provide their own support and are certified Class B on many networks. That is why it is important to understand the differences, as well as any expectations these differences place on the MLS in terms of programming and support. It does no good to find the ideal terminal and then discover that it's either proprietary or not certified.

  2. What functionality does the terminal provide directly? For example, most terminals placed today will process EMV cards (and it is likely prudent to choose terminals that are EMV capable). But not all terminals are NFC capable. In many cases, in order for a terminal to be NFC capable it requires a separate unit or PIN pad.

    This isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but it must be understood when reviewing and making assessments about terminals.

  3. Will the terminal support the ancillary services used by my merchant base? A terminal that supports your payment needs may not support your gift, loyalty, check or any other third-party application requirements. This could be due to memory requirements, lack of an ability to support multiple applications or even specific requirements of the third party.

    Don't forget to check with the providers of third-party products you currently use and determine which terminals they support. That may narrow your focus or require adding an additional terminal solution to your toolbox for these specific needs.

  4. What price points fit my clientele? For many of the reasons listed above, you can't just choose one terminal and place it everywhere. If you are going to choose multiple options, you should consider their costs as well.

    We all know that free equipment isn't really free, and that merchants' needs are rapidly changing. That's why it may be time to consider offering terminals at multiple price points so you have a solution to fit any prospective merchant.

The old days will be remembered fondly, but that doesn't mean they were without their challenges. We all faced changes in market demand, terminal functionality and processing restrictions. That's why it's critical that you address these questions so you can ensure that you have the best selection of terminals in your toolbox, both now and in the future. The Green Sheet, Inc.

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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