By Allen Kopelman
Nationwide Payment Systems
Did you know that friction is the number one cause of burnout among small and midsize business owners? As merchant service providers, we help merchants remove friction all day long to improve the customer experience. Isn't it about time to apply that same expertise to our own businesses?
Let's face it: we could be better at customer onboarding, portfolio management, transaction monitoring, PCI compliance, KYC or AML—just to name a few. In fact, some of the payments industry's best-selling solutions, like IRIS CRM, Secure Bancard's Pioneer, and Biller Genie, were all designed to solve internal problems until a team member realized that others, even competitors, could benefit from these services as well.
A thorough audit of your internal business practices can help reveal areas in need of improvement, and rest assured, we all have them. It's best to get your house in order, especially if you're trying to attract investors, because anyone who bets on your success will care deeply about operational efficiencies.
The first order of business is to figure out what you're repeating, because the only place where double entry belongs is in accounting. If you have data entry people who are manually entering information from merchant applications, it's time to update your technologies.
If you're using more than one system to monitor your merchant portfolio, a secure user portal with multiple permission levels can provide a real-time, single-access view of everything from payment flows, service tickets, transaction disputes and inquiries to POS deployments and reporting.
In this age of instant customer onboarding, you need to augment credit decisioning with artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation to bring your risk management and underwriting into the 21st century and derive a fully dimensional view of your prospective merchants.
These tools are driving faster payment, settlement times, fraud detection and prevention and more. Don't stay stuck in manual procedures that hold you back from fully participating in the merchant services ecosystem.
Twenty years ago, when I got into this business, merchants were getting used to the idea of processing payments electronically, so it was okay to talk to them about it. Today, if you try to open a conversation by talking about payment processing, you'll be hung up on or asked to leave a store.
Don't make the mistake of trying to be like every other merchant acquirer. Show a business owner how to solve a problem, make more money, and attract and retain more customers by demonstrating your knowledge of their area of specialization, whether it's fast food, retail, ecommerce or other vertical industry.
Don't be afraid to offer free advice or a free referral. It also can't hurt to buy something once in a while. Why be the only one to make a sale? Merchant services is a relationship business and it takes time to build solid relationships based on trust, respect and profitability.
Let your prospects know you're in this for the long ride, not to make a sale and disappear, never to be heard from again.
The best way to remove friction from the sales process is to listen more than you talk. This will come naturally if you are genuinely interested in the people you meet. Look around their shop or restaurant, not as someone who's desperate to make a sale but as a prospective customer. Business is a two-way street.
Stop thinking of the merchants you visit as sales targets. Recognize we're all in this together as merchants, service providers, card brands and consumers. In many cases, we wear more than one hat. We're businesspeople, consumers and some of us even have merchant accounts. Isn't it time to start acting like a community of professionals and help each other grow and scale?
Allen Kopelman, a serial entrepreneur is cofounder and CEO of Nationwide Payment Systems Inc. and host of B2B Vault: The Payment Technology podcast. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/allenkopelman/ and Twitter @AllenKopelman
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