By Allen Kopelman
Nationwide Payment Systems
Plug-and-play tech is on trend in the small business community and for good reason. We all know merchants have more important things to do than to worry about credit card processing. And platforms that bundle merchant services with money management, accounting and investing platforms into subscription services are simple, safe and easy to operate.
Most subscription-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms offer flat rates, instant onboarding and tools that help merchants manage their businesses. These are attractive qualities for small and midsize businesses, which is why many of them are flocking to self-attended commerce solutions.
It's worth noting, however, that self-attended commerce solutions are different from traditional payment processors. Their help desk departments, for example, rarely pick up by the third ring and open a ticket.
Merchants who are accustomed to this level of service are usually surprised when they reach out to customer service, only to be directed to an FAQ page. There are no relationship managers at most SaaS firms, or even a help desk for that matter. Self-service, automated solutions "just work" until they just don't.
Most traditional processors, ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) understand that merchant services has always been a relationship business, and most of us are here for the long ride. Merchants who think of payment processing as a plug in the wall have never experienced the concierge-level service, dedicated relationship managers and caring professionals who can show clients how to leverage payments systems to grow and scale their businesses.
As processors, ISOs and MLSs, we've weathered numerous iterations of commerce technology while consistently striving to build meaningful relationships. Our customer service and help desk professionals answer questions, solve problems and provide advice on a range of business solutions that support our clients' requirements and business models.
As anyone in this business will tell you, merchant services is always evolving. Customers change behaviors, regulators create new rules and emerging technologies change the way we pay. Business owners find many aspects of merchant services confusing, from security to pricing to cash discounting to mobile and virtual payments. Let's face it: most merchants would appreciate having a trusted partner who could help them navigate their ever-changing options, requirements and technology.
As trusted payment processing partners, we can also help business owners maintain secure systems, by ensuring that all third-party service providers are PCI compliant, and helping to implement truncated transactions, point-to-point encryption, tokenization and more, while continuously monitoring transactions to detect and thwart malicious attacks on premises and online. A payment processing provider must also have a well-staffed risk and underwriting department to assist with fraud control and chargeback prevention and remediation.
Pricing can be simple, but most big platforms never fully disclose the bottom line or how much money is left on the table when businesses use their service. Wouldn't it be preferable to see the interchange rates that Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover charge for each transaction and the service provider's mark-up? Alternatively, merchants who do not need that level of granularity would be satisfied to know that their pricing is significantly lower than the bundled, one-size-fits-all rate that tech platforms typically provide.
Recently, there's been a lot of discussion about cash discount programs and dual pricing. Like credit card processing, numerous service offerings are in the market, each claiming to be simple, safe and easy, but legality and compliance are also key considerations.
The best cash discount programs charge a flat monthly fee for a POS terminal, without transaction fees, batch fees, interchange fees or card brand fees, and a one-time PCI compliance fee to confirm a system is validated as PCI compliant at the time of installation.
Credit card surcharging programs are different from cash discount programs, and unlike cash discounts, which are legal in all 50 states, surcharging rules vary from state to state. An ideal service provider would help educate merchants on each state's surcharging regulations.
Considering the viral growth of digital commerce, it's imperative for merchants to maximize potential with every sale by meeting customers where they are, whether in-person or mobile and virtual environments. Omnicommerce enables businesses to accept all payment methods across all channels, including mobile, physical, virtual and embedded payments.
In the digital-first world, business owners must accept all types of payments, major credit cards, debit, ACH, Apple Pay, Google Pay, tap-and-go cards, EMV, NFC, wallets, wearables, and alternative payments like buy now pay later, cryptocurrency and more.
Processing virtually through a payment gateway will enable businesses to process payments manually, online, through a plug-in, API, or on a website's shopping cart or hosted checkout page while the gateway securely encrypts and authorizes customer payment transactions.
Finally, in today's fast-moving business environment, payment processing is not a one-and-done. It's critical for merchants to stay informed and educated, and it's our job, as merchant service providers, to do just that.
Merchants deserve simple, easy and fast technology backed by knowledgeable, responsive humans who can negotiate on their behalf with banks, processors and service providers to ensure that their hardware, software and processing solutions are functioning securely and efficiently.
Allen Kopelman, a serial entrepreneur is co-founder and CEO of Nationwide Payment Systems Inc. and host of B2B Vault: The Payment Technology podcast. Email him at email@example.com and connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/allenkopelman/ and Twitter @AllenKopelman.
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.Prev Next