Choosing a payment service provider

Learn what to look for when searching for a new payment processor.

Your company is growing, so you’re clearly doing something right. To achieve your venture’s potential, you need partners and suppliers that fuel your growth instead of weighing you down. These partners must be experts in your current and future markets, and they should understand your customers. They should have a growth mindset, looking far beyond what’s working today.

When you select a business partner like a payment service provider, you should look for a like-minded industry leader who “gets it.” The partner should take a collaborative approach to business and be selective about companies they themselves partner with. The partner should have a laser focus on the end user experience, understanding that a customer’s needs are ultimately what matters.

Signs you’ve outgrown your payment service provider

There are a few signs to be aware of. If your payment provider can no longer keep up with your pace or transaction volume. You’re spending excessive amounts of time and money on payments as your provider struggles to adapt, leaving you with a choice of implementing complex workarounds and supplemental providers, or seeking a new, all-in-one provider that can support your entire business.

As a fast-growing company, you need to manage your customer experiences and grow into new markets. You’ve achieved sufficient scale that you’d gladly trade a simple but rigid pricing structure for pricing transparency and the ability to manage your payment processing expenses. You need a processor that can support your company’s culture and growth aspirations, one that will remove — rather than create — complexity, and one that will enable your future rather than anchor you to the past.

So let’s explore what to look for as you set out to find a great payment partner.

Focus on growing together with the same mindset

If you are a fast-growing company in any industry, the ideal payment processor for you is one with an entrepreneurial mindset. The processor should enable growth, have next generation technology, and should be relentlessly focused on staying ahead.

If you are a luxury brand with a sophisticated customer experience, your ideal payment processor will be equally focused on its own customer. You need a processor that provides merchants with an exemplary experience and is well positioned to help merchants deliver on promises to high-end clientele.

If you are an established corporation that has flourished due to its ability to maintain a growth culture, the best payment processor for you is one that has managed to do the same. The processor mixes sophisticated, large and high growth customers while sustaining high-growth culture and performance, supporting the short and long-term needs of larger companies.

These aspects can be rolled together into a single concept we call “cultural fit.” It simply means that the most successful customer-to-client relationships happen when the two companies work together synergistically and passionately. With a strong cultural fit, the two companies energize each other. Without that fit, they drain each other through countless hours of relationship and project management. It’s not easy to find, but cultural fit should be of foremost importance when evaluating your options.

Mutual interests and business similarities are critical when selecting a partner. Approach your processing relationship as you would any business partner. Assume you’ll be growing together for a long time. Select a payments service provider that complements your own vision and that can be an extension of your business — one that is open, transparent and customer centric. The partner company should meet or exceed your technical acumen, global ambitions, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Use technology that’s always up to date

New technologies and customer communications tools are creating new ways to sell. You can now sell through multiple distinct online channels, through traditional stores, and through combinations of online and in-store channels. It’s also easier than ever before to sell anywhere around the world.

Many payment service providers aren’t keeping up with the speed of innovation. Their platforms were built in the 1980s to service payment terminals of that time, and they’re still operating those platforms today. These providers may give their technologies small facelifts and retrofit them to co-exist with platforms acquired from other companies. The result comes in the form of outdated platforms, or a mix of platforms and a piecemeal approach to servicing merchant needs. Many do a good job of marketing their services as integrated, but their technology limits their ability to give customers what they need and deserve.

These providers can slow your growth. They work with a variety of platforms — each with their own consumer and merchant interfaces and data sources that can’t easily be combined. They may have separate platforms for card-present vs. card-not-present transactions, multiple processing protocols for different geographies, confusing and inconsistent reporting formats, and irreconcilable billing — ensuring that their offerings are disjointed and difficult to use.

An ideal payment provider is a company with one platform that’s constantly updated, ensuring that users always have access to the latest version of the product. One platform is also more easily scalable and allows for deep data analysis, which can help a merchant better understand customer behavior and make better business decisions.

A unified platform lets you manage customer purchases wherever they happen — online, in store or on mobile. The unified platform is not built around a long-past era and patched together with patchy solutions. Rather, it’s designed and built specifically to meet today’s needs. It can therefore manage all interfaces in a cohesive manner, and it can be easily updated to meet evolving merchant and consumer needs, which is critical for expanding merchants looking for fast go-to market solutions. It’s all about enabling simplicity, expandability, scalability — and most importantly — a smooth path to purchase for consumers.

Technology should never get in the way of growth. It should put you in the driver’s seat, enabling you to be in control of the special customer experience you have promised. Look for a payment provider with elegant technology that allows you to be in command of your own destiny, untethered from bureaucracy, system limitations and business complexities. Don’t tether yourself to someone else’s faulty business and technology strategies.

There to support and guide you

Bill Gates famously said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” Good payment providers go above and beyond technology. They teach and support. They proactively provide rich, consultative ideas for evolving your payment strategy, penetrating new markets and channels, and optimizing your customer experiences.

They do this because they can. Knowledgeable people can’t help but share their expertise with their customers. It’s their reason for being. Providers that insist on hiring the very best, identify themselves at every interaction. Don’t seek service-oriented providers, but rather knowledge-oriented ones. A payment provider should be a true partner, offering insider tips, best practices to improve payment conversion rates, and give you access to a community of experts. Their support should go further than a hotline or ticketing tool.

These providers are also apparent by the company that they keep. If they work with the leading companies that your organization aspires to emulate, then you’d be well served to join in. When you’re part of a network of leading merchants, your common partner has gained from the demands and experience of those leaders. In other words, you want to be in the company of other successful ventures. That even applies to your selection of a payment processor.

Make sure you look for a proven platform, one that has served similar companies, but companies even larger and faster-growing than yours. You need a processor that clearly demonstrates payment expertise and knowledge orientation, along with capabilities far greater than your current needs. Be sure you have the same technology as market leaders.

Expect more from your provider

A sophisticated processor with the experience and expertise to connect you to local payment schemes around the world, and to the consumers who depend on them, will help you push across borders faster than you could before. With experts in every region, next-gen processors are knowledgeable about the intricacies of launching in each country and can help you expand into new markets as your strategy warrants.

Seamless and customized by channel, geography, behaviors, buyer context and more, transactions processed by a next-gen payment company reduce friction, standardize, customize or localize customer experiences anywhere. They do this while adjusting for different sales channels, local tax treatments, currencies, types of accounts, financial institutions and more.

Adapting quickly to changes in payment processing requirements has never been more important. Each market around the world, even those within the U.S., comes with its own set of local regulations and compliance requirements. The fact is, customers don’t care which markets require an EMV chip card or the use of a PIN to authenticate. They just want to know they can count on doing business with you whenever and wherever they happen to be. Regulatory concerns — those are yours, not theirs. But a great payment partner takes on that burden. An experienced and effective payment processor can make swift, responsive changes on your behalf, greatly reducing (or eliminating) impacts to the consumer.

Picture dramatically reduced data security worries. A well designed payment solution relies on sophisticated encryption and tokenization services, hosted pages and/or fields and payment terminals built to keep private data private. A great payment partner will house all sensitive consumer data in infrastructure managed and maintained by them, keeping it away from every inhouse or third-party technology you use. That kind of confidence is yours as soon as responsibility for maintaining data security and PCI compliance is shifted to your new payment processor.

Imagine your growing venture being released from the weight of outdated payments infrastructure. That old hardware and software in constant need of updating? Gone. Good riddance to stand-up servers, supplementary providers, and in-house processing software. With innovative, iterative and cloud-based solutions from your new payments processor, technology is provided as a service.

When partners speak the same language, they help each other continue to excel at what each does best. Growth-minded merchants need payment processors that are nimble like them, stable like them and successful like them. An anchor that held you steady may have been fine in the beginning stages of your voyage. Today, you need a processor that acts more like a sail, capitalizing on market tides and responding to the winds of change to help you achieve your true potential sooner.

Look for the things that really make an impact

Competitors are coming after your customers. You need to be better, faster and more nimble than ever before. You need a payment partner that can manage your complex needs. Any expanding business is, by definition, going into uncharted waters. You need partners that have navigated those waters, and can fulfill their roles without a glitch so you can manage your course instead of managing theirs.

Higher volume has raised the significance of your payment processing costs. You no longer need simple pricing; you need transparent pricing. Vendors you can trust are critical to smart expense management. Every minute lost to a service outage counts against your brand, your reputation, and your profitability. You need a payment processor that can offer scalability, stability and reliability.

Whether most of your sales happen online, in store or on mobile, you need a processor that can fundamentally support your growth.


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