4 Things to Consider When Selecting a Merchant Services Provider
Have you ever tried buying something at a store, restaurant or convention and watched the merchant fumble around with one of those Square or PayPal card readers? The idea of customers standing around and waiting for someone to take their money drives me crazy. If it wasn’t for the face-to-face, personal nature of in-store transactions, I’m sure brick-and-mortar merchants would be losing business left and right because of it.
E-commerce companies aren’t so lucky. Any hiccups that happen in the checkout line are quickly met with a red “X” as shoppers hastily close out of the window and take their business elsewhere.
Online shopping is a big and competitive business, and the more flexible and secure an internet retailer’s payment options are, the easier it is for them to convert visitors into customers. That’s why creating a great relationship with your merchant services provider is especially important for e-commerce companies.
The Merchant Services Must-Haves
Security and communication are the two big things retailers need to address when shopping around for a merchant services provider. Whether you decide to start your own personal account or end up working with support profiles like Stripe or Square, the following four things are essential to creating a great partnership with your provider:
1. Gateway management: The gateway is an e-tailer’s terminal; it’s what connects your website to your bank. If there’s ever a problem with that connection, the gateway manager will end up spending hours on the phone sorting it out. Would you rather that person be you or your provider?
It’s an easy choice: Establish a point person at your provider who manages your gateway. Be sure it’s a strong one. You need to trust that your hard-earned money consistently finds its way into your bank account.
2. A first-name basis: If you’re a movie buff, you know that successful businessmen in movies always seem to have great relationships with their bankers, accountants and other financial cohorts. They know each other on a first-name basis, they have friendly conversations and, as a whole, the partnership is far from sterile.
It only makes sense for a merchant to have this type of relationship with its provider. You're essentially handing them your livelihood, so be sure to develop a personal connection with the people who deal with your account.
3. Know who to call: Beyond being on a first-name basis, you should know who to call when you have questions or issues. The phone number provided shouldn’t take you to a main menu where you have to key in numbers and beg to speak to an operator. When you dial that number, a phone sitting on your point person’s desk should ring, and you have an advocate within the company. The question to ask is, “What kind of access do you have to the people who actually make decisions? Do you know who to call when you need answers?”
4. A backup plan: In business and in life, you should never have all of your eggs in one basket. Retailers should have at least one backup account in the event that their primary one encounters a fraud risk — a very real possibility when it comes to e-commerce.
I’ve seen it happen to good people countless times: risk flags start coming in, and the bank decides to freeze or close the merchant’s one and only account. You simply can’t afford for this to happen. Even if you never use your backup, I definitely recommend keeping one on standby just in case.
As a retailer, it’s your duty to keep your customers’ information safe. Communication and security are key, especially when it comes to preventing and addressing fraud. When problems arise — they always do — you need the peace of mind that comes from having a great merchant services provider in your corner.