In this article Choosing the right payments partner: 5 things to consider, we discussed the practical information you need when choosing a payments provider. Compliance, coverage and licenses are just three areas you need to explore when making sure you have the right provider fit.
But choosing a provider is more than just ticking the boxes. Today’s business world operates like an ecosystem, a living organism made up of several, interdependent parts. We’ve moved on from a time when relationships were purely supplier and purchaser.
So when you choose which provider to work with, you are choosing what will hopefully be a long-term partner. As a result, you want to make sure you are working towards the same goals.
Upskilling to make the right choice
It can seem counter-intuitive, especially when most clients seek third-party providers to supply them with expertise they don’t already have, but it’s important to build some internal knowledge about the sector you’re hiring from.
Take customer service automation, for example. You may be exploring how to integrate chatbot technology to free up your contact centres to deal with more complex enquiries. To choose the right supplier, it’s important to have a basic level of understanding about chatbot technology – what it is capable of and what it’s not, basic IT system requirements, data compliance and so on.
Upskilling can be achieved in a number of ways. For simpler concepts, self-learning using the internet may be all that is needed. In some cases, third-party providers might suggest training basics or provide resources of their own. For potentially large investments or ones that will be central to business transformation, specialist consultants can be employed to bridge the knowledge gap and ‘translate’ for clients.
It is all too easy to find that a provider has a service you need but is either too agile, traditional, technology-focused or theoretical for your needs.
Third-party providers are often chosen to help a more traditional, legacy business move forward with innovation more quickly than they would be on their own. This necessarily puts them a little at odds with the in-house culture. However, it should be to a degree that the client is comfortable with.
Some companies are happy to employ startups, hoping to access fresh thinking. However, some see startups as being risky or too outlandish and so may choose to ring-fence any activity as an innovation project. Perhaps a better approach would be to work with take an incremental approach before making wholesale technology changes. Once the new solution is proven successful in one area, then it can be rolled out further.
It goes without saying that in the payments universe, maintaining regulatory compliance and standards of operation is a given. When it comes to meeting customer expectations, however, there are no defined levels and one person’s excellent may be another’s barely acceptable.
Whether a third-party provider’s operation is directly customer-facing or not, their actions will ultimately impact on your customer experience. Any behind the scenes downtime will impact your ability to deliver.
The onus is on you as a client to observe your provider’s service delivery to their other clients to make sure it will support your own standards of operation. It is also vital to set your company’s expectations clearly at the start of any provider relationship and create a success measurement framework based on these being met.
Moving from a wholly in-house management style to a collaborative, outsourcing model necessarily brings with it the sense of a loss of control but this needn’t be the case. Successful outsourcing and partnerships rely on realistic and informed expectations, followed up by clear and constant communication.