By: Mia Huntington
Senior Vice President & General Manager, Elavon Canada

Not too long ago, processing customer payments was a simple exercise for small businesses. Most of your transactions were cash and it rarely got more complicated than checking the signature on a cheque or the back of a credit card. Today’s digital economy has removed most of the manual work, but added layers of complexity. Behind every debit or credit-card tap is a web of electronic transactions that streamline the payment process but pose risks to a business owner’s bottom line if he or she doesn’t choose the right solution.

Whether you’re launching a small business or have been running one for 20 years, one of the last things you want to worry about is payment processing.  Before you move forward, here are five key questions to consider.  

1. What kind of small business are you?  

Know yourself, then decide how you want your customers to pay. A small store may only require one or two countertop payment terminals; if you run a bar or restaurant, you may need to add wireless terminals to allow customers to pay at their table; if you sometimes sell outside your premises – such as outdoor markets or festivals – you may need a mobile payment solution; and if you have several locations and a large number of staff, you should consider solutions to help you make sense of that imposing mountain of sales data. 

And let’s not forget e-commerce: Adding online sales to your in-store business is not just a must for start-ups; it could also be key to revitalizing sales for many an established mom-and-pop operation.

2. Do you want to be innovative?     

Whether you’re running a café or a hardware store, your customers want to pay and go quickly – and they will respond favourably to businesses that provide this with state-of-the-art technology.  They will also expect you to allow the latest mobile payment technology, such as Apple Pay®*. Meanwhile, from your side of the counter, your bottom line will benefit from the productivity boost gained from leading-edge payments solutions.

A good example of innovation driving business results is talech, a tablet-based payment solution we provide at Elavon Canada. To the customer, it’s a smart, easy-to-use system that reflects well on your business. To you, it’s a business-intelligence tool that not only manages your daily sales and employee data but can create a customer database, manage your inventory, and perform other analytical tasks to help your business run smoothly.

3. Does security matter to you?                                                    

Your customers expect their personal data to be secure at your place of business, and you should demand the same from your payment processor. You should always seek a provider that deploys state-of-the-art encryption and that continually updates your system to the latest Internet technology standards.

4. How strong will your technical support be?

Everyone has experienced trying to pay in a café or store whose payment system is down. It’s a source of incredible frustration, and every minute of downtime leads to lost sales and generally reflects poorly on that business. You need to be sure of access to round-the-clock, highly-trained customer service agents. At Elavon Canada, we care about every one of our business customers, no matter how small, and have a 24/7 service centre in Canada where we solve client issues in more than 10 languages.

5. Can you rely on a transparent and fair process?

How soon will the proceeds from each day’s sales be deposited into your bank? And how much will you be charged in interchange fees (the percentage that credit card companies take from each transaction)? These are the kinds of questions small business owners should ask. Interchange is a complex system, and can vary not only between the card brands, but the issuing banks and even the type of card. Your payment processor should provide full transparency and ensure you not only understand what you are being charged, but how you can save money and minimize your interchange costs.