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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 10, 2015 • Issue 15:08:01

Staying informed in the payments biz: A sane approach

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a merchant level salesperson (MLS) about the changing payments landscape. She was wondering if the industry was passing her by. She was well aware that payments is a technology-based industry and that merchants are very concerned about their costs, the speed of deposits and how easily they can accept payments. However, merchants were now asking about the cloud, POS solutions, Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) and mobile wallets.

In most cases, her merchants didn't necessarily want all of these solutions, but they were hearing about them from various sources and were wondering if there was a way they could use this new technology to their advantage.

A seismic shift

It has definitely been interesting to watch this shift. The old radio station, WII FM (What's In It For Me) seems to have changed formats. Merchants have become skeptical, and rightfully so. They have been hammered with fear tactics regarding EMV. They have been offered "free" POS solutions only to later discover hidden costs that weren't fully disclosed.

Fear of falling behind

In addition to this acquired skepticism, merchants are becoming more and more technologically savvy. In fact, many merchants are from the millennial generation, which means they have never known life without iPads or smartphones. They have no fear when it comes to discussing how to best leverage their tablet devices or how best to use the cloud to their advantage. As such, what's in it for the merchant has changed greatly.

Discussions like the example I just described have become more and more common. Many MLSs have told me they are fearful they no longer have the knowledge base they need to be successful.

What to do, what not to do

Do you sometimes feel this same way? If so, there are some dos and don'ts that will help you overcome this fear and give you an advantage over your competition.

  • Don't attempt to shotgun knowledge on every abbreviation or topic you hear. You will find yourself overwhelmed with information. As a result, you could end up retaining very little, or worse, you could actually start mixing up the information and not getting the facts straight when you are communicating with your customers and prospects.
  • Do gain a working knowledge of the general topics of the day. You do not have to become an expert.
  • Don't allow yourself to be paralyzed by information. In other words, learn one thing at a time, and don't move on until you are comfortable with the topic.
  • Do listen to your current merchant customers and others doing business in the marketplace you are targeting. They are getting hammered with subjective information (information positioned to benefit your competition and weaken your business relationships). You need to be objective, point out any errors and dispel any myths.
  • Don't try to gain this knowledge from a group of third parties.
  • Do go to your ISO partner and approach that individual with your concerns. Your ISO should be able to provide the information you need.

Essential topics

The next steps are to identify the topics that are needed today.

  • EMV implementation: This has been a hot topic for almost three years, yet there is still a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. Ask your ISO partner for information the business has compiled. For example, at Clearent, we developed a four-part series of resources on EMV that can be found at www.clearent.com/resources/emv-chip-card-technology. Your ISO might have a similar resource.

    Also, do an Internet search for articles written by reputable news sources. Pay close attention to the statistics on percentages of cards issued and the types of terminals and POS solutions that are EMV enabled. Additionally, pay close attention to how the solution works for your merchant types. If you primarily focus on restaurants, for example, you should understand how tip adjustments work.

  • POS solutions: In the past few years, the demand and interest in POS units has increased greatly. Today, POS technology isn't restricted to large, expensive equipment. As such, you need to understand tablet solutions as well. Make sure you fully understand the differences, the cost basis, and your merchants' needs. Your ISO partner should be a great source of information on these options.
  • Gateways: Today, it's becoming more and more important to understand software connectivity options. Lots of merchants are avoiding Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard development costs by using hosted payment pages for connection. However, this can add costs. When reviewing POS and software solutions, it's important to understand the differences between various connectivity options.
  • Mobile solutions: Unlike the early days of wireless terminals, there are hundreds of options for mobile solutions using smartphones. Before attempting to gain a working knowledge of these solutions, first identify the functionality that your merchants will need. Will they be swiping transactions? Will they need recurring billing? Will they be using a mobile option along with other payment solutions? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you identify a few key solutions that will work best in your market.

The art of listening

In every case, your ISO partner should be a key source for gathering this information. Go to your ISO owner or designated representative with your concerns and that person should be able to provide direction.

Most importantly, don't spend time gaining knowledge at the expense of your sales efforts. Seek balance. There will always be more you can learn in our industry. Just remember, it's OK if you don't have all of the answers. You just need to know someone you can trust who will help you get the answers.

Above all, listen to your merchants. They will tell you what they are hearing on that important channel, WII FM. This will help you keep your finger on the pulse of your customers' needs. And it is one of the best ways to ensure your long-term success.

end of article

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.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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

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