By Kelly Cullum
A successful independent software vendor (ISV) channel requires that payment companies and ISVs working together have synergistic value systems. As merchants obtain services, the aligned cohesion should prevent frustration and confusion for both merchants and their ISV/payment enterprise partners.
Look at these core values from three of the largest, domestic technology companies:
These values translate into the staff they hire, the workspaces they create and the partners they bring on. Now, I see no need for a payment company to establish a shoeless environment to make staff feel more at home, but I do see a demand for increased efficiency in communications between merchants and partners.
Consider the following questions: Are you obsessed with your merchants? Are you empowering them to get help at any time, utilizing third-party tools that have truly mastered the virtual help desk? Have you given merchants a way to directly communicate with a representative at the click of a button or easily submit a ticket? Have you implemented welcome calls to help merchants embrace the numerous logins they may have for a merchant portal, PCI compliance updates, gateway or whatever else they may need?
Most would respond no to these questions since margins are too slim. However, ISVs embrace these practices with minimal staffing efforts. How do they do it? By leveraging the established company values that are driven by company vision. They appoint a person or team as the company champion(s) that drive proactive solutions built to keep customers happy.
This increases the perceived value of a solution and allows a business to increase margins. Think of fancy plating at a five-star restaurant; if it comes out on a pretty plate with an aesthetically pleasing design, people will pay more.
Do you promote personal excellence internally and externally? Have you created open door policies to encourage entry-level staff to discuss concerns with C-level executives? It's a catch-22, but if you focus on hiring people obsessed with your customers, it's likely they will be obsessed with improving your processes to keep those customers. This especially holds true with customer service reps. They are in tune with daily frustrations and what's actually happening with merchants. How do you provide those people with a voice to ensure service is at the forefront?
Are you dedicated to innovation? Innovation has so many facets: hardware, software, people and processes. How are you measuring yourselves to know if innovation is working? Merchant portals enable you to push short surveys and waive statement fees for those who respond. If something that subtle improves attrition 2 percent, that's significant with many portfolios hovering close to 20 percent attrition nowadays.
Yes, plenty of merchants have zero loyalty when it comes to payment service providers, but doesn't some of their disaffection stem from our own behavior? Did we inadvertently enable developers to see a market opportunity and build customer-centric solutions? Absolutely. Many of them worked for their parents' Main Street businesses, saw inefficient processes on a daily basis and then built solutions to solve the problems.
Now that the tech bubble is showing signs of slowing and the gap between payments and ISVs is closing, what will you do to emerge victorious? ISVs and other disruptors have taught us all major lessons: first, there is logic behind building an ecosystem within our businesses to create unity; second, our customers need to be our first thought, not our last; and third, and most important, innovation is key. Ultimately, it is payment veterans who will create the bridge between payments and ISVs. Most have held back and watched the disruption happen and now are about to make their move knowing that alliances with front-end solutions are more important than ever.
Kelly Cullum frequently finds herself caught between technology and payments so she chooses to help payment companies build solutions that empower merchants and produce healthy profits. You can follow her on twitter @cullum_kelly or drop her a line at email@example.com. if you have a solution you are looking to build.
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