Modern Credit Card Processing: How to Cut Costs and Improve Customer Service

Updated: August 27, 2009

Introduction


The right merchant service can enhance productivity, boost customer satisfaction and increase revenues. That's because credit card processing grants customers a fast and convenient payment option in today's increasingly cashless society. But being able to accept a variety of credit cards from customers isn't always cheap. Expenses such as transaction fees, monthly minimum charges, discount rates and termination fees can become a significant expense. Fortunately, by adopting a two-prong approach to the costs associated with credit card processing, companies can both reduce costs while greatly improving customer service.

Analysis


With scores of merchant services providers vying for your business, it pays for companies to shop around for just the right solution. Banks, credit card companies, third-party providers - they all offer merchant services packages at varying costs. For this reason, companies would be wise to play providers off one another to land the most attractive deal. In some cases, variables such as transaction fees and discount rates may even be negotiable.

Another way to cut credit card processing costs is to avoid package plans. Many merchant services providers bundle offerings such as software upgrades, paper, backups and email marketing tools. While these packaged goods are often offered at reduced rates, they can be pricey for companies that don't make the most of their value-add features.

Avoiding chargebacks is yet another way to reduce credit card processing fees. A chargeback occurs when a customer requests his or her money back from a service or product provider. In turn, the merchant services provider, to cover the costs associated with processing a chargeback, levies a fee of upwards of $50 per chargeback. Fortunately, there are steps companies can take to avoid chargebacks. For example, many companies ensure that the name of the business matches that which will appear on a buyer's monthly statement for easy recognition. And in the case of a Web-based business, it's always wise to rely on a verification system that electronically compares a customer's billing information with a card holder's records and personal data.

But looking for ways to shave dollars and cents is just one part of the credit card processing equation. Making the most of this widespread merchant service also entails leveraging important data for enhanced customer service. For example, many businesses are now viewing credit card processing services as a marketing vehicle - a unique opportunity to gather data on customer buying behavior, manage inventory, empower store representatives, enhance customer service and establish strong loyalty programs.

For example, imagine arming an electronics store's employees with a hand-held order processing device that links with the store's inventory management system. When a potential customer asks a store employee if a particular product is available, that device can automatically inform the store representative if the product is in stock. If that product is out of stock, the employee can increase his chances of making a sale by checking to see if a similar product is available for purchase, or when a product is scheduled for delivery. As a result, by linking a merchant service with a business's back-end system, a company is able to reduce the risk of a lost sale while increasing customer satisfaction.

Web-based businesses can also benefit by leveraging data for the sake of enhanced customer service. Take, for example, the Web-based business whose credit card processing module is connected with a built-in CRM system. The possibilities are endless. For example, by identifying customers via their credit card numbers, a company can up-sell products based on a person's past buying behavior or reward that repeat customer with loyalty points that can be redeemed both online or in-store.

Implications

A handful of cost-cutting measures and a clear focus on enhancing customer service can have widespread ramifications. These include:

  • By taking the time to comparison shop and negotiate for the most appropriate and reasonably priced merchant service, a company can greatly reduce costs and improve its bottom line.
  • Avoid chargebacks by making sure the name of your business matches that which will appear on a buyer's monthly statement, and installing a verification system that electronically compares a customer's billing information with a card holder's records and personal data.
  • Start to see credit card processing services as a marketing vehicle - a unique opportunity to gather data on customer buying behavior, manage inventory, empower store representatives, enhance customer service and establish strong loyalty programs.
  • Make the most of point-of-sale devices by linking them with back-end systems such as inventory management and CRM tools.

For more information on merchant services, consult Focus' comprehensive Market Guide, pose a question to Focus experts here or join a discussion with like-minded peers in the Finance Group.

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