From botched takeout orders at favorite cafes, to delays in electronics and auto deliveries, to scant openings at childcare centers, and more, repercussions of supply chain issues and lack of qualified workers are rippling across the globe. With that in mind, we asked members of The Green Sheet Advisory Board the following questions:
Following is a portion of the replies we received. We'll publish additional answers in our Dec. 27, 2021, issue. We are grateful to all GS Advisory Board members who shared their experiences and knowledge for this series.
1. Betterpay was very fortunate in that we didn’t lose any employees due to COVID-19. We actually added additional personnel to our customer service department.
As far as sales partners go, we experienced more turnover than was normal. Several agents working with us went on to other careers or simply stopped working in the field. As we all realized, calling on businesses, with some exceptions, came to a halt. Our agents continued to monitor and take care of their portfolio, and we supplemented that with newsletters and programs directed to merchants who were the most affected by COVID-19. There was nothing we could do to stem the loss of some great restaurants, diners and retailers. Fortunately, many food businesses such as grocers, delis, pizza places, meat stores and takeout restaurants increased sales.
2. In 2022 our strategy centers around ramping up recruiting, increasing our national brand marketing, redeveloping our entire marketing program and implementing more efficient reporting. We also have plans to expand our POS capabilities and focus on expanding our multichannel gateway offerings. We will also focus on expanding our footprint with independent software vendors. We also plan on expanding into more high-risk verticals with our groups.
3. Merchants have been challenged with higher costs and lower margins. They, too, have seen shortages in goods especially in retail clothing, furniture, electronics, auto sales and appliance sales. We have introduced various surcharge programs allowing them to pass along some costs of processing to the end consumer. We have also helped restaurants develop pay at the table to save time and improve accuracy of orders. We have assisted restaurant merchants in setting up their own online sites to keep more of the phone order sales they receive. Our agent trainings all focus on improving the technology at locations. Something as simple as accepting Google Pay or Apple Pay can make a difference to a merchant.
4. The last two years have been difficult at best. I believe the struggles we all had did make us all stronger. With the challenges have come new opportunities that exist because of some great improvements in technology. Whether it has been the launch of multichannel gateways, cloud-based terminals or iPad/Android POS systems, the industry has lots of viable programs that, just a few years ago, didn’t exist for all. The huge success of Clover systems is an example of a product category we didn’t have a few short years ago. Success in the industry today still requires a motivated individual who understands they must set goals and stay the course.
1. We have significantly enhanced our compensation packages for both employees and sales partners to attract and retain talent. We recently implemented a program to provide every new and current employee with $50,000 in restricted stock units (RSUs). Now, every Shift4 employee is an owner of the company. This was a great way to reward our team for all their hard work and has also been an effective tool for recruitment and retention. It aligns every employee with the success of the company, which in turn aligns them with the success of our partners and customers.
3. Our merchant customers have faced a number of challenges over the past year, including COVID-related business restrictions, labor shortages, increasing supply costs and supply chain issues. We launched our Shift4Cares program during the early days of COVID to provide various resources to our merchants. This included an effort to raise millions of dollars for our customers by selling gift cards on their behalf and contributing an additional 5 percent of all proceeds directly to the merchant. We also offered free services and equipment, waived fees, and more to provide relief to our customers. We have since expanded Shift4Cares to encompass a wide range of corporate social responsibility initiatives, and this program still includes numerous efforts aimed at supporting our merchant customers.
4. The trend towards integrated technology solutions has continued to accelerate within the payments industry. It’s important for payments professionals to embrace this reality and partner with companies that can help them capitalize on this opportunity. For example, Shift4 has launched a number of “Integrated Payments 101” programs that enable our sales partners to penetrate lucrative markets that were previously unavailable to the ISO/MSP community. These unique opportunities include hotels via our extensive PMS integrations, Micros accounts through our Micros Center of Excellence, and ecommerce with our Shift4Shop platform.
1. 2021 was definitely a challenge to find the talent we are looking for at Elite Merchant Solutions, both on our customer service/technical support and on our inside sales. The traditional means we utilized were not producing the results we desired, so we explored new mediums to attract talent, and these have paid off thus far.
The first thing we did was to hire a recruiting firm that specializes in placement for a variety of positions, and we received a steady pipeline of prospective employees based on our needs. We hired several people from this channel and, of course, some didn’t work out; however, we retained some very good talent utilizing this service.
The second and more dramatic of the two is we moved the bulk of our Los Angeles operations to Plano, Texas, which is in the Dallas area. When we first placed ads, we were astounded by the number of applicants who applied, and we were able to immediately have our first inside sales training class within a month of opening this location. Elite has many long-term employees, and to ensure we retained the top talent we did a variety of things for our staff including but not limited to hefty raises, bonuses and incentives. The one thing a tough labor market will do is make you appreciate the good employees you have.
2. Our marketing person at Elite has been in contact with a firm we engaged to help us get the Elite message out to new and prospective merchants in a variety of different ways including social media, LinkedIn, email campaigns and direct marketing. Our firm has never put a lot of resources behind this type of outreach; however, we feel it will be invaluable to keep existing merchants up to date on the payment processing space along with new and existing products Elite offers that may be suitable for their business.
In addition, we will be able to make contact with prospective merchants, and they will periodically see Elite and we hope at some point make the move to our platform. As everyone knows, sales is a contact sport, so we want to reach out to as many contacts as we can to build off our existing portfolio and acquire new merchants.
3. Merchants have expressed many concerns. Some are more industry specific; however, the recurring concern among all industries has been related to fraud and how to prevent or severely mitigate it. Fraudsters are getting better and better at their craft, and it is up to us to be on the front lines to combat fraud. Much of the fraud we investigated on behalf of merchants was preventable if the right processes were put in place.
What we did was create a step-by-step document, which we now send out in our welcome kits, that shows merchants the necessary steps they must take to mitigate fraud and how they can be especially vigilant going forward.
4. I see the greatest opportunities for new payment professionals in the technology side of the business. The race to the bottom has been going on for years with respect to pricing, so if I were entering the payment space today, I would focus on new technology that can really make an impact on businesses. Ideally, I would find a few verticals and learn what the holes are and how you can fill them. Obviously a proprietary solution would be most ideal with several complementary products, so it would be very difficult for a merchant to switch processors as they would be tied to you and your proprietary products.
1. The key to attracting and retaining quality employees and independent contractors is the same this year as it's been throughout the last 25 years when eProcessingNetwork processed its first payment transaction: treat the team with respect and allow them to excel at the job they do best. Allowing our staff to work remotely during the height of the pandemic and moving forward helps keep the best on board when life changes take place. Fostering an employee-centric environment that allows everyone the ability to create and developNextGen applications to meet the needs of the industry is key to staying relevant in the market.
2. In 2021, we have seen great interest from resellers needing to offer their merchants the payment solutions necessary to attract and retain customers looking for a frictionless experience—solutions that are easy to implement, affordable and fully integrated. This year we launched a webinar series that focuses on a unique market segment each week, where we talk through the solutions, devices and services tailored to that market. The time spent with our senior sales channel directors has helped re-educate and re-energize our resellers about our full suite of solutions to help the small to midsize merchant run their business. 2022 will bring even more opportunity to continue educating resellers on the integrated solutions that ePN offers.
3. After adapting to the particular shopping needs that came out of the pandemic, consumers are now accustomed to a seamless buying experience for both online and in-store shopping, with BNPL, BOPIS and curbside pick-up all remaining a part of the merchant's everyday operational modes. The embrace of contactless payments, digital wallets and other cardless payment methods for safety reasons has led to consumers feeling much more comfortable with transacting without plastic in hand. Implementing cash discount programs really helps our merchants differentiate themselves among their competitors if they can appeal to the shopper looking to make their dollar stretch a little further this holiday season, especially with concerns of supply shortages and inflation.
4. Innovation within the payment ecosystem is key for 2022 and beyond, especially since the pace of development is accelerating faster than ever. The changes taking place within real-time payment systems that are tied to growth of P2P apps, digital currencies and mobile payments will help drive the technologies offered by eProcessingNetwork and other gateways. We are certain our professionals will help lead in the development of compliant and leading-edge solutions that will meet the expectations of resellers and their merchants.
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