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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 28, 2008 • Issue 08:07:02

Dial is yesterday's paper

By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC

Suppose you took the best salespeople you could find, gave each one a demo bag with a phone inside, and told them to sell security and peace of mind to small-business owners. That's exactly what happened 20 years ago when we introduced electronic data capture.

Suppose the device in the demo bag looked more like a small computer than a phone, although some of the early models had handsets. Imagine explaining to merchants who were accustomed to walking paper-based transactions to their banks that their credit card receipts would be sent electronically through a phone line and would take up to three days to appear in their bank accounts. Was it really an easy sale?

A new era to relish

Some of us like to reminisce about the good old days. But while competition and increased supply have driven down our pricing, let's not forget that technology is still our best friend, and newer solutions equal higher profits.

Today's technology is every bit as revolutionary as yesterday's electronic data capture. You don't need an engineering degree to sell it. You just need a high-level understanding of how these solutions work. This knowledge helps you solve problems and improve efficiencies for your merchant customers.

Twenty years ago we had a large population of merchants who depended on paper for their bankcard transactions. Today we have an equally large population of merchants who are using outmoded dial technology. They represent a superb opportunity for ISOs and merchant level salespeople.

For merchants, dial-up credit card processing is becoming just as antiquated as dial-up Internet access for most homeowners. Why choose to process credit card transactions with a dial modem when there are so many more cost-effective and efficient methods of transmitting data?

The widespread use of cellular, Internet protocol (IP)-enabled, Wireless IP-enabled (Wi-Fi), and contactless protocols has made these new technologies more affordable and easier to use. Traditional credit card terminals share an increasingly crowded market with such form factors as key fobs, laptop computers and solutions that are integrated with POS management systems.

Some of today's new hardware models not only resemble phones, they are phones. Smart phones with Bluetooth card reader peripherals offer an intelligent choice for mobile merchants or delivery services that need to process payments on the go.

Merchants who have switched from dial to countertop wireless or high speed Internet-enabled terminals will tell you the difference is like night and day. A four-second transaction looks like warp speed to a merchant who is used to a 45-second dial transaction.

With so much variety now available, how do we help new merchants make informed decisions on what method of processing to buy? Merchants are surrounded by new technology, and they are already asking questions about it. They want to know that your hardware, software and communications methods are secure and obsolescence-proof.

Essentials to emphasize

Here are five key factors to emphasize when reviewing processing options with merchants:

  • Support: Present solutions your company is ready to support. Confirm that both the hardware and user interface are certified and supported by your processor. Affix directly onto the device or system a label with the toll free support number, and provide a user manual and Web site address for frequently asked questions.

    Sometimes your customers may agree to participate in beta tests of emerging solutions. An ideal beta merchant is someone who is excited about trying new technology and enjoys providing feedback to your company and hardware manufacturer about the experience.

  • Security: New security standards have raised the bar for all hardware and software providers in our industry; they are also accelerating the obsolescence of many legacy systems.

    It's important to educate merchants about current regulations and the need to use industry-compliant systems. Most new technology meets all payments industry security standards. For more information on current and evolving compliance standards, check with your processor and visit the Web sites of Visa Inc., www.visa.com, and MasterCard Worldwide, www.mastercard.com.

  • Warranty: Become familiar with manufacturer warranties and your own company's policies regarding equipment loss, theft and failure. Most merchants will be willing to pay additional fees to protect their investment in a new system.

  • Vertical focus: In the early days of our business, only three flavors of vertical market solutions existed: retail, restaurant and lodging. Today there are more than 100 payment applications customized for the needs of today's business owners.

    One such example is a mobile application for a limousine driver that enables payment at the POS, while the dispatcher tracks each vehicle via a general positioning system. Another example is a handheld wireless or Wi-Fi terminal that processes payments at restaurant tables, enabling PIN-based debit and eliminating the potential for fraud by keeping credit cards within view of cardholders.

    When you show industry-specific applications like these to prospective customers, you're not just leveraging new technology; you are positioning yourself as an industry specialist. Find out which of these niche applications are available through your company. They will help separate you from your competition.

  • Gateway: Gateways are an important component for e-commerce, mobile, virtual terminal and even dial applications. A secure gateway not only protects cardholder data; it also takes the pain out of software updates, hardware upgrades and processor changes.

    A good gateway partner eliminates the need to download terminals when portfolios are sold. It simply points the transactions to the new processor without disturbing the affected merchants or their terminals. Another advantage to incorporating gateway services is the real-time reporting features they provide to merchants.

We've come a long way in the last two decades. Once limited to dial modems, we now provide an array of secure high-speed protocols to merchants. These solutions are more efficient than dial, and they offer substantial savings and return on investment.

It makes sense to present these options to your merchant customers, especially when they are tailor-made for particular industries. We're not just selling processing; we're selling communication. Who needs yesterday's paper? Let's keep our customers current with today's fast and secure technology. end of article

Dale S. Laszig has a varied background in sales for First Data Corp., Hypercom Corp. and VeriFone. Her dedication to technology, writing and graphic design led to the formation of DSL Direct LLC, a marketing services company geared toward payment professionals. She can be reached at dale@dsldirectllc.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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