Here in the 21st century, consumers expect certain things from the merchants they give their business to. They want the shopping process to be simple and convenient from start to finish. They expect to be presented with lots of options to choose from as well and not just in regards to the products they’re buying. They want to be able to pay for what they buy using whatever payment method they please.
That being said, if you’re a small business owner that isn’t already accepting payment options like credit cards and debit cards, you have every reason in the world to start. The majority of your customers are used to simply reaching for their favorite card when it’s time to pay for something. If you’re not already offering them that convenience, you could be losing business or missing out on larger, better sales.
However, knowing you’re ready to take that next step when it comes to payment processing is one thing. Actually getting there successfully is another. Let’s take a closer look at how you can make the process as simple and convenient for both yourself and your customers as possible.
Give careful thought to the available options.
These days, payment options go well beyond cash or check, so start the process by carefully considering all of your available choices. You’ll probably definitely want to start taking credit cards and debit cards, as they’re by far among the most popular ways to pay. Certain types of businesses might also benefit from accepting ACH payments as well. (Popular forms of ACH payment include e-checks, direct deposits, gift cards, and loyalty cards.) There are also web payments, mobile phone payments, and more to consider.
Take some time to consider which picks make the most sense for you given your business needs, industry, and clientele. For instance, options like e-checks or web payments might make more sense for a web-based small business or a company looking to establish a successful ecommerce presence. Loyalty programs and gift cards are excellent fits for brick and mortar businesses looking to connect with locals and keep them coming back.
Embrace credit card processing sooner rather than later.
Many small business owners do plan on accepting credit card payments at some point, but figure they’ll wait until their business is older and more established first. They figure they’ll save a small fortune on payment processing costs while the business is still new and revisit the idea later on when they’re turning a larger profit. What those business owners don’t realize is they may also be losing money in the form of lost sales and missed upselling opportunities.
If you’ve recently opened your small business or are about to, you’ll benefit greatly from embracing credit processing as early as possible. Making sure the payment process is as simple and convenient as possible for your customers is an important part of building your clientele and attracting repeat business. Plus, credit cards open the door to near limitless opportunities to sell to your customers across multiple platforms. In other words, you can’t afford not to do it, no matter how new your business may be.
Work with established payment processors.
Even a very small business will process near countless numbers of deposits and various transactions. The more transactions your business engages in, the more room there is for error or even fraudulent activity to enter the picture. That could easily lead to costly chargeback rates, not to mention angry customers – problems a small business may find it hard to come back from.
Make sure you’re working with a payment processor you can really trust with the integrity of your small business by thoroughly evaluating each option before you decide on one. How long has the entity in question been in business and what is their reputation like? Are their clients generally happy with service they’ve been receiving? When there are complaints or concerns, are people satisfied with the way they’re handled?
Avoid doing business with brand new start-up processors that haven’t yet made a name for themselves or established a client base. Yes, every company needs to start somewhere, but a small business owner needs to make smart decisions about who they collaborate with. Choose someone you can trust not to make potentially costly mistakes with your transactions.
Make sure the payment provider you choose is a good fit for your business.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can only get good quality payment services from banks. While they’re certainly an option to consider, there are also lots of technology providers out there today that are perfect fits for small businesses. The trick to finding an option yours can really grow with into the future is to carefully consider all of your needs during the decision making process. Ask yourself questions like the following:
- Is the provider in question willing to take on new or otherwise high-risk businesses?
- Are the encryption and security services offered reliable enough to suit your business’s needs?
- How high are the transaction fees and how do they stack up against the alternatives?
- Does the provider offer options like early termination and cancellation fees?
- Does the provider place enough of a priority on customer support? Do you feel confident that any issues or questions will be handled in a timely, professional manner?
You’ll also want to make sure you take advantage of any opportunities to obtain the best possible rates for your small business. Expenses like assessment fees tend to be the same from one service provider to another, but transaction and processing fees are often negotiable.
Decide on a prudent payment strategy.
Actual payment strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. You’ve got your options to choose from, so be sure you take the time to come up with one that will work well for both you and your customers. Consider integrating your payment data into your existing accounting system to help simplify audits and compliance checks. Doing this also takes a lot of the guesswork out of any troubleshooting that might need to be done.
You may also want to take additional steps to prevent fraudulent activity by converting all paper checks into electronic payments. It’s worthwhile to educate your clientele in regards to electronic payment systems as compared to check payments and other options as well.
Understand that there’s no such thing as too much encryption.
Every business owner should take every opportunity to learn as much as possible about how the electronic process works. The more you know and understand about each step along the way, the easier it will be to make sure payment practices are handled professionally, securely, and efficiently.
Encryption is definitely something you’ll want to fully embrace. Don’t just settle for establishing an encryption protocol for one or two parts of the payment process and decide that’s enough. Solid, reliable encryption you trust with your customers’ sensitive information starts with your payment capture devices and ends with the final authorization. In other words, data should be encrypted from the very beginning of a given transaction all the way to the end. It’s the best way to make sure each one is 100% secure at all times.
Make sure all payment processing devices stay safe and secure.
Establishing a safe, secure payment system you and your customers can trust isn’t just about what goes on behind the scenes or on paper. It’s also about the payment gateway and the actual equipment you use to accept and process payments. This is the case whether you operate a brick and mortar store, an ecommerce shop, or some combination of the two.
Make sure any and all devices used to process payments are never accessible to outside traffic. They shouldn’t ever be left unattended while transactions are actually in process either. Take advantage of additional security measures like parental locks, locking stands, and so forth. Last but certainly not least, make sure all devices are regularly inspected for evidence of tampering or theft, even if you’ve been extra careful to safeguard those devices. There’s no such thing as being too thorough when it comes to payment security!
Keep up with ongoing PCI compliance.
Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is something businesses of all sizes need to be aware of if they’re going to be interacting with debit cards or credit cards. In a nutshell, it’s about making sure you as a business owner stay up to date as far as the latest and best security practices. Your customers are counting on you to keep their information safe and proper PCI compliance is the best way to avoid letting them down.
In addition to staying abreast of the latest security technologies, information, and practices, you should also consider installing security vulnerability software on all of the PCs you use for your business. Such software is fantastic for detecting and preventing potential security leaks.
At the end of the day, payment processing is a lot less complicated than it may seem from the outside looking in. However, it does require a little forethought, understanding, and care in order to make sure things are handled properly from start to finish. Get started today!