If you’re a loyal NPR listener, a casual CNN viewer, or are married to your New York Times subscription, you already know that small businesses are expected to be the underdog champions of the economic recovery.
As every small-business owner knows, selecting the right merchant-processing plan will weigh heavily on 2011 growth.
There are many merchant-processing providers available to you, which is why it’s important to cut through the clutter quickly. In the interest of narrowing your options efficiently, we’ve identified five questions you need to ask prospective processing providers before making a decision:
1. How satisfied are your customers? If you’re looking for a long-term solution, this question is important. Search the potential provider’s website for testimonials, and don’t be afraid to ask for references from current customers. Your best advocates in this search are your fellow customers. Whether you are handling the back-end aspect of your site or you have a consultant doing it for you, you may appreciate these additional bonuses: a comprehensive developer library for quick troubleshooting and constant access to customer support.
2. Will you be there for me 24/7/365? Many times, when things go wrong, they don’t go wrong between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you operate a 24-hour business and you experience a glitch at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it’s essential that your provider is available immediately to help you get through the issue quickly.
3. Are your rates competitive with other solutions? This is a tricky question, because you need to search for the right balance when it comes to rates and fees. If fees seem excessively low and the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. On the flip side, if you run a business traditionally viewed as “high risk” (such as a travel-and-tourism business that relies almost exclusively on advanced booking), you’ll want to ensure that you receive a fair assessment all the way down the line, from gateway fees to transaction fees. Look for a provider who has rates that can easily compete with most popular gateways, and ask if the provider will give you a complimentary cost analysis if you furnish your statement. Above all, be leery of any provider who locks you into a contract or charges a cancellation fee, both of which are nonexistent with The Small Business Authority.
4. Will your payment solution integrate easily with my website? Again, whether you’re handling the back end yourself or you’ve hired a consultant to do it for you, this question is incredibly important. You (or your technical consultant) probably don’t have time to go looking around for documentation on integrating the payment solution into your custom shopping cart. Sign with a provider that will readily provide access to web service support in .NET, PHP, and more. If any of these terms are new to you, you’re not alone. Click here.
5. How quickly will my client or I have access to transaction funds? The goal of any ecommerce plan is to make the sale and see the funds hit your bank account, right? Before committing to working with any merchant-processing provider, be sure to inquire about the speed of the process. With some providers, it may take four or five days to see the funds hit, whereas many other programs (like Payroll Pro) deliver funds in as few as 48 hours. Cash flow is vital to any growth plan, so funds availability is an important factor to consider when making a decision.
These five questions will help you find a solution that will become an integral piece of your growth plan in 2010. This list is in no way complete, but rather provides a baseline for early research. In your opinion, what other factors should be considered in identifying and implementing a merchant-processing plan? Help us add to the list in the comments below.