The technology landscape is one fraught with challenges for merchants, small business owners and other firms as they seek to add payments functionality for their customers. Handling transactions while ensuring accuracy and security are among the most important parts of successful payments integration. For some firms, a close relationship with a payments provider – think of payments as a service – is in order, and the provider must know its customer across several levels, anticipating the payments needs and desires as those firms grow. Call it … customer intimacy.
Customer intimacy may sound a bit risqué, but peel back the covers on the verbiage and it’s simply a term for sound business practice.
As the payments landscape expands to embrace integrated and seamless continuums from initial shopping to checkout, Kurt Bilafer, who serves as WePay’s global vice president of sales and customer success, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster that customer intimacy is a form of relationship building that winds up being important to both the company and its partners, cementing one to the other on levels that are deeper and longer lasting than might be assumed if viewed only through the lens of a transaction.
All too often, the executive stated, the payments experience has been one marked by confusion. There is the wonderment at final stages of the transaction, with significant information entered by the consumer, whether the transaction is finally complete, and just who is processing the payment.
“Payments is a complicated space,” he told Webster, “and a lot of our partners are early in their journey with payments. They are trying to identify the best way to offer a payments solution to their own customers.”
The movement to integrate a payments solution at a WePay partner may initially be based on price, but that often is a starting point for a firm new to the payments game. These companies, said Bilafer, “might be looking toward a low-cost provider and want simply to get the ‘plumbing’ that connects buyers and sellers. We consider this stage one in the payments space, and that could be just people doing referral arrangements with other payments providers,” and which Bilafer stated is not a main focus for his firm. The second stage would be those who want to bring payments in house … and no longer want the long paperwork process that might already be in place for merchants.
“The third stage is branded or co-branded [payments] to be in house” that help foster business relationships with their suppliers, and payments becomes a conduit to maintain those relationships. Many of those customer relationships, said Bilafer, take place with business software firms. The fact remains that with the most basic levels of payments relationships, and generic relationships, firms “can lose visibility into transactions and can’t tell [end customers] where their money is or what has happened when fraud takes place.”
Against that backdrop, said the sales executive, WePay has undertaken its intimacy initiatives to foster more intertwined partnerships, noting that at the beginning of the journey … there are numerous configuration options for solutions that can range from KYC rules to how to handle security and branding and communications; WePay seeks to break that journey into a roadmap replete with several steps and phases. WePay, he said, has a professional services team that is dedicated to payments integration and the account management process. Those teams help WePay customers work with how to price and go to market with new products and strategies, targeting the customer’s defined version of success. One measure of success can be tracked by the removal of steps between the accounts payable and accounts receivable processes (which of course helps cash flow).