Merchant service providers have had to adapt quickly to keep up with ever changing technological landscape. Simple point of sale terminals and term sheets have been radically replaced with interactive mobile and cloud-based applications, ranging across multiple devices.
 
This article will take an in depth look at how merchant level sales people (MLSs) have digitized their field to include specialised software and integrated service models.
 
Software and payments
It’s an undisputed fact that payment solutions and the IT sector are now a formidable team driving the financial industry. The focus on technology has allowed merchants to simplify their payment procedures. Typical enterprise resource planning models are now used to facilitate payments across a company’s entire internal departments and many application program interfaces have been designed to facilitate merchant services.
 
However, this emerging market still requires the expertise of renowned financial service providers to help them navigate and create a smooth-running software platform. To put it simply, synergy is required between MLSs and software companies to provide efficient services and support to their valued clientele.
 
Hardware and services
Since the replacement of out-dated dial up modems with wireless technology, major financial service providers such as Europay, Visa and MasterCard have also switched to broadband supported platforms rather than dial up ones which take much longer to process transactions.
 
Apps are now able to offer the same services that were once only available as on-site support and installations. Such apps are now able to offer far more advanced services than their predecessors such as market places, repair, warranty and estate management systems.
 
The move from on-site installations to basically being able to perform transactions anywhere and anytime has resulted in the need for MLSs to become more understanding of the marketplace in order to offer tailor made solutions to their respective merchant clients. The need for flexibility is of utmost importance and surprisingly cost effective as it costs much less to implement software changes than it does to invest in bulky POS terminals which can only perform transactions at a single location.
 
The ability for merchant service providers to be able to provide a single platform that effectively services multiple clients is a profitable venture for merchant service providers that can only be facilitated through a healthy partnership between the tech industry, resulting in improved functionality, capabilities and security.
 
P2PE and scans
The switch to cloud-based services has also brought along its fair share of security concerns. Innovative tech companies have started to offer Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS)-validated point to point encryption (P2PE). This is a complicated logistic procedure due to the large number of devices that need to be distributed, coupled with the fact that it is a difficult procedure to gain PCI validation means that it’s an option that many merchants choose to opt out of.
 
There are many solutions used by companies now providing point to point encryption on even credit card machines. The main obstacle faced in protection of transaction data is knowing where said data is. Multiple devices are connected over a single platform making it impossible to scan each and every one.
 
For these reasons PANscan and PIIscan licensed solutions are used to find unencrypted sensitive data weak points which companies might not have even known existed by scanning up to three gigabytes per minute. 1.5 billion unsecured account numbers have been identified and encrypted since 2010.
 
Landline and mobile security
The PCI security Standards Council has made it mandatory for merchant service providers to secure every cardholder’s date. While this is easily achieved for online data, it is a bit more difficult to secure data that is transmitted over landlines or cellular networks.
 
Solutions for these obstacles have been created whereby every bit of data entered through these networks are disguised using either:
• Dual tone multi frequency masking
• Stars or monotone notifications when data fields are completed
• Contactless payment solutions over mobile networks.
 
This can be achieved through vital partnerships between mobile operators and manufacturers such as Samsung. Instead of purchasing expensive terminals the merchant simply has to utilise the merchant service platform via their smartphone. It also ensures that data handlers such as call centre representatives never see or hear any of the cardholder’s sensitive information.
 
Subscribe and pay-as-you-go
There reason for the major global shift from POS terminals to cloud and mobile based subscription solutions stems from the fact that the latter are much easier and cost effective to manage.
 
These services make the online shopping experience a more satisfactory option than the traditional alternatives. Many applications now exist to provide secure authentication procedures and credit scoring algorithms to speed up transaction processing times. From a merchant’s point of view, it now becomes much easier to assess running costs when all costs are neatly sorted into one subscription bundle.
 
Chat bots and sales enablement
Virtual Sales Assistants that are based within the merchants shopping platforms help to provide an extra personal touch, by aiding every customer with their particular query. If for example the client was searching for a specific wine, the chat bot or Virtual Sales assistant would be able to find the product needed but also explain why it was best suited to that particular customer. The same experience cannot be obtained with an actual sales assistant.
 
Previously, chat bot’s engagement with customers was limited by their preconfigured responses. Newer versions are equipped with wide ranging capabilities to guide users at every instant of their shopping experience and are even able to explain complex information about the customer’s needs.
 
It would be beneficial for MLSs to learn to function similarly to Virtual Sales Assistants; this can be achieved by two means namely:
• Sufficient training and experience with the technical aspects of merchant services, thus enabling them to focus on their key niche markets and solving client specific software issues.
• Gaining information from valued clientele about what kind of changes they would like to see regarding the methods in which their credit and debit transactions are processed.
 

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