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What is Your Company's Culture?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Mar 22, 2017 1:15:13 PM

3028691729_617a0136fa_m.jpgAs any successful business owner can tell you, there’s a whole lot more to a thriving workplace than profits.

In fact, a positive and supportive company culture may be even more important than the number of zeros in your bottom line during a single given year. Company culture is more about the long-term health of a business than short-term or general profitability. For that reason, measuring company culture and understanding how to influence it are vital to the longevity and overall success of your business—both now and in the future.

What is Company Culture and Why is It Important?

According to Greg Besner, the founder and CEO of CultureIQ, “company culture is the set of behaviors that determine how things get done in a company.” In more detail, a company’s culture is linked to its vision, general operating practices, and interpersonal interactions within the company. Basically, it’s the overall quality of how people interact with one another in the company, from the highest management to the part-time cleaning staff.

Its value is locked solely in the people that make up your company. A positive company culture is important for the following reasons:

  • Employee recruitment: a positive and productive culture attracts skilled employees.
  • Employee retention: no one wants to work in a negative environment.
  • On-the-job efficiency: you can accomplish more when communication is high and your skills are valued.

What Company Culture Metrics are Important?

Once you’ve established that you want to focus on company culture, the first step is determining how exactly you should measure it. While most can agree that it exists, measuring company culture is much more difficult because of its somewhat insubstantial nature. However, it is possible. When establishing your company culture metrics and measurement process, focus on the following workplace qualities:

  • Capabilities and competency - development of inner (attitude, approach, etc.) and outer (skills) competencies.
  • Engagement or commitment - employee motivation and willingness to perform the work
  • Alignment - how in sync each level and department is with the company’s goals, vision, and purpose
  • Individual and team performance - measuring not only individual success, but team interaction as well

How Can I Change My Company Culture for the Better?

After measuring company culture based on your established company culture metrics, you can begin to decide what to do with the information. For some companies, this data may be best used for training your management team or adjusting the general organizational policies. For other companies that have a serious work environment or perceived branding concerns, a major overhaul may be in order.

The most important place to start is your company’s overall set of values and your company vision. Even more important, you must also consider how to apply those values across every department within your organization. What actions, attitudes, and impressions are important to your company? Then, how can those values become a part of every employee, customer, and management interaction?

Ultimately, major changes in company culture will take time, and there are some pitfalls to be wary of. To start, make sure you are aware of the importance of communication, collaborative change, and accurate systems of measurement. Data informing you that everyone completed your training does not necessarily mean that the training was truly absorbed or that the cultural changes are being implemented across all sectors of your business.

Adjusting your company’s culture will require the full support of all of your leadership team and, eventually, the engagement of every employee. Such an endeavor can start small, but it means so much more than a simple policy or procedural shift. You will be working to create a mood and influence a feeling that is as real as it is intangible. No doubt, you’ll have your work cut out for you, but the results—should you be successful in creating a strong, positive company culture—can be astounding.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Lisa Brewster @ Flickr CC.

Tags: corporate culture

Why Rates are NOT the Most Important Criteria When Choosing a Payment Processor

Posted by Ashley Choate on Mar 15, 2017 8:32:05 AM

choosing a payment processor.jpgChoosing the right payment processor for your business—while seemingly straight forward—can actually be a confusing and challenging process. If you’re not aware of all the variables involved, it can even be a costly one in ways that have nothing to do with how much you’re paying for the service.

In modern businesses, the payment processor is responsible for some of the most important aspects of the financial health of any organization that relies on credit or debit cards for a portion of customer payments. As such, selecting the right payment processor for your business is vital and shouldn’t be based solely on credit card processing rates.

“Although everyone believes it’s all about the rates, the reality is it’s just like everything else – you get what you pay for,” said Linda Borek, President and CEO of NTC Texas. “No one buys a car, a dress, a house, a crib, or any type of product or service strictly based on the lowest cost.”

One article even called low credit card processing rates the “fool’s gold” of the payment card industry, because what seems like the best deal rarely delivers the outcomes business owners are expecting.

According to Borek, a good payment processor does a lot more than simply process payments. They build relationships with their customers, provide secure services, and help clients overcome payment issues or problems quickly. As Borek said: “Cheap credit card processing feels great until there is a problem.”

The following are criteria—the important ones beyond credit card processing rates—that every business owner should consider when selecting a dependable payment processor.

  • Reliability - Can you trust this processor? Check reviews and talk to other customers who have used this processor to make sure you can trust them to have your best interests at heart. If you don’t trust them 100 percent, keep looking.
  • Security - What is the company’s track record in security, and what security services do they offer? In a world where hacks are almost commonplace, you want a payment processor who can keep your customers’ card information safe.
  • Responsiveness - How quickly will they help you resolve an issue? And don’t just take their word for it. Make sure you check their Best Business Bureau record, and don’t be afraid to ask around for feedback from other business owners.
  • Knowledgeability - How knowledgeable do the sales representatives seem over the phone? Can they answer your hard questions? If they’re struggling to thoroughly explain their rates or processing equipment/technology, they may not be able to deliver on your expectations.
  • Customization - Is the company tech savvy and can they meet your business’s specific needs? A system that won’t mesh well with your business software and sales needs, or a lack of customizable solutions may prevent your business from running efficiently—costing you money and time.
  • Omni Commerce - Do they have terminals, mobile payment, POS systems, and/or cloud-based software solutions? As your business grows, your needs will grow too. Can this processing company offer your business the wide variety of processing options it will need to adjust and adapt to customer expectations?
  • Customer Service - Does the company offer 24/7/365 customer service and contact hours? If not, you’re probably not getting the deal you think you are.

Your business is your passion, your investment, and your livelihood. Don’t trust it to a payment processor based solely on low credit card processing rates—especially if they can’t deliver on everything else that’s important. In the long run, low rates are no substitute for great service. Since contracts and costly equipment are often mixed in with any payment processor decision, make sure you’re getting what you really need before you sign on the dotted line. Choose wisely.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Max Pixel.

Tags: choosing payment processor Texas, credit card processing ratees

How Payments Are Addressing the Needs of Customers with Disabilities

Posted by Ashley Choate on Mar 8, 2017 10:53:04 AM

payments ADAWhile technology within the payments industry has come a long way in the last few years, many of those advancements have previously neglected a whole segment of the population: the disabled.

For years, men and women who were confined to a wheelchair have experienced difficulties when trying to pay by debit or credit card in retail stores, specifically those stores that mount their card readers at an unreachable height for wheelchair-bound patrons.

But, change is on the way.

Recently, a four-year class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart resulted in an eye-opening settlement—one that will cost the company a significant amount of money and will set a precedent for businesses moving forward.

According to the lawsuit, Center for Independent Living Inc. (CIL), et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the store’s payment card machines were too high for disabled consumers to reach. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses are required to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals such that they can participate in normal daily life without undue hardship. The ability to pay in a retail establishment, according to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is one such required accommodation.

The issue was about more than personal rights to independence as protected by the ADA, however. It also concerned personal privacy and financial security. One of the major topics of contention that sparked the lawsuit was that wheelchair-confined customers often had to share private information, such as pin numbers and card information, with someone else in order to complete a payment.

As anyone in the payments industry can tell you, giving out that kind of information is strictly discouraged. But what choice did these individuals have?

Since the issue became more widely known, entrepreneurs have been working hard to find a solution that would allow businesses to offer both independence and secure card purchasing to their disabled patrons. That solution has come in the form of a flexible card reader mounting system.

These wheelchair accessible card reader mounts come in more than one version, created by different companies, but each is designed to be ADA-compliant and supportive of payments industry technology for card reader systems. Most are also EMV-enabled and ready to support a chip card system.

Your business might be new to accepting payment cards, or you might come from a long line of digital payment entrepreneurs. Either way, now that the issue has been settled on the side of the ADA within the court system, businesses can expect a required upgrade to their current mounting system.

The wisest business owners won’t wait—and not just because of anticipated legislation. In all reality, businesses thrive or die based on their ability to meet their customers’ needs. Whether you elect to purchase the most high-end mounting system available or you get creative on your own merit, your wheelchair confined customers deserve the ability to make payments on their own, with the assurance of privacy and equal rights to protect their personal information.

Keep your wheelchair-bound customers safe and satisfied by adapting to an ADA-compliant card reader mount. You’ll find the benefits far outweigh the costs—in more ways than one.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC

Tags: payment industry, ADA, customers with disabilities

Should Your Business Accept E-Checks?

Posted by Rachida Arteaga on Mar 1, 2017 10:32:43 AM

echecks.jpgThe convenience of online payments is undeniable for businesses and consumers alike. But the convenience factor does not simply end with credit cards – e-checks or electronic checks (aka ACH payments) is another method of capturing payments online that offers an exceptional convenience for businesses.

What are E-Check Payments and How Can You Accept Them?
An e-check payment functions similar to an online credit card payment but instead uses the customer’s bank account and routing information rather than a credit card or debit card number. In order to accept an e-check payment, a business would need a secure e-check gateway set-up, like Converge, arranged with a payment processing company.

What are the Benefits of Accepting E-Checks?

  • E-checks are one of the most secure forms of online payments in contrast to credit card numbers that can be easily compromised.
  • E-check transaction fees are typically processed at a much lower rate than a credit card transaction – this is typically a fixed amount rather than a percentage.
  • No more worrying about checks getting lost or stolen in the mail.
  • Payments are processed in real time – no more waiting for checks to arrive at the office and annoying trips to the bank.
  • More convenient for customers to make payments anytime from the comfort of their home or office without dealing with envelopes, stamps and trips to the post office.

What Should You Look for in an E-Check Platform?

  • An Internet-based program with no outside software to install
  • It should be accessed securely from any computer with Internet access
  • Real-time access to data and customized reports available for downloading and exporting
  • Supported by a point of sale system for in person payments and swiped credit card transactions

Although paper checks may never become obsolete, they are increasingly less popular. Younger generations of consumers and business people truly prefer not to deal with the hassle of paper checks. E-checks allow businesses to take advantage of the same “economic” function of checks without the inconvenience of dealing with the check themselves.

The more payment options your business offers its customers, the happier they will be. Add E-checks to the roster, you won’t be disappointed.

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rachida.jpg
About the Author - Rachida Arteaga, Director of Marketing at NTC Texas is a successful five year marketing veteran, running events and campaigns for large to small enterprises and non-profits.  She specializes in blogging, social media, branding/ identity and search engine optimization, striving to provide NTC Texas customers and fans with entertaining and valuable educational resources to find success in all areas of their businesses.

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: ACH, e-checks

Is Your Business Receiving Terrible Customer Service?

Posted by Rachida Arteaga on Feb 28, 2017 10:28:20 PM

Don’t Settle for Poor Customer Service From Your Payment Processor.png

Tags: customer service, credit card processing customer service, payment processor, Texas payment processor

5 Top Business TED Talks from 2016

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 22, 2017 10:10:05 AM

business ted talks of 2016.jpgThe internet really is incredible. Many young people—as in, anyone younger than 28—don’t remember what the world was like before the internet was a common household tool. It has brought into our lives a plethora of information sources, social media platforms, and valuable learning tools that have revolutionized the way we communicate and the way we interact across the globe.

One of the more fascinating tools that has evolved online is the TED Talks website. If you have never visited the site before, you should set aside some time—roughly three hours or more should do it—to explore some of the fascinating personal statements, guides, and discussions that are available from individuals across various industries, races, and cultural backgrounds.

For business owners, there are truly hundreds of topics to choose from that can help you gain perspective or discover inspiration for how to grow your business or motivate your employees. While there are a number of options to explore, below are five of the best videos posted in 2016. Although the topics may not directly address business strategies or techniques, each offers a valuable perspective that could serve as a launching point for change in your personal and professional life.

"Inside the mind of a master procrastinator" by Tim Urban

On a more lighthearted note, Tim Urban discusses the fascinating mind of the procrastinator. Everyone knows someone who battles with the procrastination urge—that, or you are one. Urban spells it out for us, and reviews the way to approach overcoming procrastination and winning the battle against the desire to play now and work later.

"Can we build AI without losing control over it?" by Sam Harris

Technology is advancing remarkably every day. In this TED talk, Sam Harris addresses the real potential the human race has to create its own downfall in the form of intelligent machines. The discussion may seem far-fetched to some, but the logical approach taken by Harris is telling of the possible veracity of this claim. The talk is valuable in reminding business owners of their own potential for growth, but also of the importance of considering logical direction and possible outcomes over the long term.

"Insightful human portraits made from data" by R. Luke DuBois

Through this incredible demonstration, Luke DuBois reinvents the way we think about both data and art. This discussion is particularly valuable for business owners, entrepreneurs, and pretty much anyone who deals with numbers, statistics, and general human behavior. DuBois shows us how numbers can be beautiful, but also dangerous. Through his art, we see patterns of behavior that can help us better understand priorities, cause and effect relationships, and the connections we form with those around us.

Meet the Dazzling Flying Machines of the Future” by Raffaello D’Andrea

In this mind blowing TED talk, Raffaello D’Andrea expands on a concept that is not new to most of us: aerial drones. What is new is the fact that they’ve nearly mastered capabilities for these machines that will revolutionize the many aspects of the business world, including package delivery, simple setup physical work like setups and breakdowns, and so much more. Anything that falls within a certain weight range can be transported by these incredible machines. They can also carry cameras for media, tracking, and observational purposes. The business world can expect some major changes in the coming years as drones may soon become a practical tool for everyday operations.

Teach girls bravery, not perfection” by Reshma Saujani

This talk is perfect for woman-owned businesses and female entrepreneurs, those well-established and those just starting out. In her TED talk, Reshma Saujani discusses the cultural tendency in America to encourage young girls to “play it safe” and “be perfect”—to avoid risks. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to take risks that could lead to great rewards. As a result, the two sexes are almost indoctrinated from a very young age to approach the world in specific ways: young women habitually avoid taking chances while young men rush towards them. According to Saujani, we need to change the way we encourage our children, teaching both sexes to work towards bravery, not perfection, so they might learn to take worthwhile risks in the hope of one day achieving something great.

While the TED Talks cover a wide range of topics and ideas, many can be applied across the business world in one way or another. Particular industries and different job roles may use some more than others, but in each, there is an introduction to a perspective other than our own. By infusing our minds with new information and new ways to approach the world, we also open ourselves up to receiving new tools for use in our personal and professional lives—and new tools often mean new opportunities for growth, development, and success.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: Ted Talks, Business Inspiration

Mobile Payments Gaining Momentum in B2B

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 15, 2017 11:36:11 AM

b2b mobile paymentsElectronic payment methods aren’t just for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies anymore. Today, more and more business-to-business (B2B) organizations are learning that old cash, check, and 30-day invoice methods are simply outdated, unsafe, and inefficient. Mobile payments are proving the easier, more cost-effective way to pay bills and settle debts—even between businesses.

Eliminate the time gap.

While invoicing and a standard 30-day payment timeframe may have worked 30 years ago for many B2B relationships, most of us don't have time for all that these days. While invoices are still necessary for record keeping purposes, they can be sent via email. Once the invoice is received, the process doesn’t have to slow down to a snail’s pace and devolve into non-electronic methods. While many B2B transactions have traditionally revolved around paper checks, there are a variety of new options available today for all types of businesses.

Mobile payments, for instance, allow for immediate payments, even through electronic check methods, instead of a lengthy and drawn out payment process through paper invoices and paper checks—all of which are expensive and require preparation. Through a mobile payment processor, however, you can pay bills through credit or debit card, through electronic check, or via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) immediately—even for B2B transactions—without hassle and without a pending invoice hanging in the area.

Clear and easy record keeping.

One of the most amazing aspects of electronic transactions is the paper trail. Mobile payments are always tracked by a payment system, many of which allow for easy integration of these records into reports and other important systems within your business. Keeping a thorough record of financials has never been easier or cheaper.

Safer transaction processing.

While B2C businesses have been fairly mobile for a while now, B2B companies have lagged behind. One source reported that the reason behind this lack in technologically savvy payment options was due to “supplier resistance”, as well as a lack of confidence in the security of mobile payments. Reportedly, only 10 percent of professionals surveyed in a study conducted in conjunction with the National Association of Payment Card Professionals (NAPCP) indicated that they were “likely” or “very likely” to utilize mobile payments for their B2B transactions.

While concerns about security are warranted considering the high numbers of breaches and fraud that many businesses have faced in the last few years, the fact is that traditional check payment methods are actually in some ways less secure than mobile payments or other electronic payment methods. According to a Canvas Marketing article, check fraud is one of the most common forms of fraud on the market. This assertion is confirmed in an article by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP). Essentially, money is hard to secure no matter what form it comes in.

Make payments easier for your customers.

Regardless of safety concerns and the NAPCP survey results, there is evidence to suggest that mobile payments are catching on with many B2B businesses faster than many believe. According to one 2015 AFP report, roughly 80 percent of B2B companies are switching to electronic payment methods, including mobile payments—and really, despite a few nay sayers, this should come as no surprise.

The fact is that mobile payments are just easier for the customers and for the company. Once the upfront cost portion is handled, an effective software and hardware system for electronic payments can simplify billing and accounts receivables (A/R) processes considerably. Even better, it saves both companies money, since paper checks and manpower to process them will no longer be required. With mobile payments, a few clicks is all it takes and everyone has what they need.

Certainly, no system is without its flaws, but mobile payments are here to stay for both B2C and B2B industries. Don’t miss out on an easier, quicker way to manage your revenue stream and simplify your business’s financial future.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: B2B Mobile Payments

How did SMBs Handle Data Breaches in 2016?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 8, 2017 9:41:28 AM

SMB data breaches.jpgCybersecurity is a major concern for businesses across the U.S., and big businesses are not the only organizations being targeted for cyber attacks. In fact, a large percentage of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have faced business data breaches, often resulting in six-figure payouts to repair the damage.

A recent research study, released June 2016, conducted by the Ponemon Institute surveyed 598 individuals who were employed at companies consisting of between 100 and 1,000 employees. Their findings were both shocking and not entirely unexpected.

  • 55 percent of the businesses surveyed had experienced cyber attacks in the past 12 months.
  • 50 percent experienced data breaches resulting in compromised employee and customer data within the last 12 months.
  • The businesses that experienced these incidents spent an average of $897,582 as a result of damage or theft of IT assets.
  • Disruption of normal operations cost these businesses an additional $955,429.

Later in the study, surveyed personnel indicated that two of the greatest issues with maintaining cybersecurity and neutralizing threats were insufficient personnel and insufficient budget. This lack of investment in terms of personnel and funds for sufficient technology could be the result of two factors: either 1) small businesses simply don’t have the resources to expend or 2) they’re not prioritizing cybersecurity high enough.

Considering the payouts listed above, the former seems to be a moot point, as the cost to deal with the aftermath of a breach will likely be higher than simply preparing for a breach in the first place. The data from 2016 brings up a valid question- What steps should SMBs take to prevent business data breaches and secure against cyber attacks in 2017?

The first steps to improving your cybersecurity begin with understanding the threat. A Business New Daily article listed the following as threats as some of the most common in 2016, though this is not a comprehensive list of attack methods.

  • Phishing - An email-based attack, often most effective when the email identically matches those that might come from a trusted source. These can steal login credentials, credit card information, and other sensitive data from your computer or network. This is one of the most common types of attacks, according to the Ponemon Institute study.
  • Malware - A general term for malicious software. These programs can be introduced to the computer or system any number of ways and can infiltrate to steal data or cause system damage.
  • Password Attack - One of three types of attacks targeting your user password and access credentials. Cyber criminals may use one of the following methods: 1) guess until successful, known as a brute-force attack, 2) utilize a program run through dictionary words until successful, known as a dictionary attack, or 3) use a keylogging program to register the user’s keystrokes prior to attempting to gain entry.
  • Inside Attack - When a malicious insider intentionally misuses his or her access credentials to get control of company or customer data. This is one of the hardest attacks to protect against and, according to the Ponemon Institute study, occurred in 5 percent of the surveyed businesses.

There are several other varieties of software-based, web-based, and insider attacks that could occur to your system, including ransomware and other evolving methods. Keeping apprised of the potential threats is a big part of being prepared to protect against business data breaches.

The following are some of the best methods used in 2016 for keeping systems secure and will hopefully continue to work for a long time to come. Keep in mind, however, that cyber criminals are always adjusting their attacks, making constant vigilance a necessity.

  • Implement and enforce strong password policies. The Ponemon Institute study found that if the business had a password policy, 65 percent did not enforce it. Effective, strictly enforced password policies, including two-step authentication, where possible, and limited permissions for each employee, are important layers in cybersecurity defenses.
  • Keep dedicated personnel on staff to monitor for threats. One of the major conclusions drawn by the Ponemon Institute study was that current technologies are often insufficient to detect or prevent infiltration from certain cyber attacks. For this reason, it is vital to keep IT security personnel on staff who are constantly scanning and checking your system for breaches, otherwise, the criminals could continue siphoning information from your system indefinitely.
  • Utilize computer and network protections. Modern cybersecurity systems should include: web application firewalls, SIEM, endpoint management, and network traffic intelligence. At minimum, your IT department should have at least anti-malware and client firewalls in place for protection.
  • Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt—and back it all up. One of the highest and best forms of protection for your information is encryption. You should also back up your data to prevent ransomware from becoming an issue, since it can lock down your data and prevent your access. Encryption, on the other hand, is extremely effective for preventing any compromising and costly effects from business data breaches. Since the data will be encrypted and impossible to decode without the right program or key, the information is essentially useless and you will likely not have to worry about as many attacks against your data in the future.

While these methods, when implemented, proved somewhat effective in 2016, a new year brings new challenges. Most importantly, businesses need to take the threat of a breach or cyber attack seriously. One infiltration can have devastating consequences on the future of your business.

As businesses continue to struggle with data breach protection, products like Safe-T are helping manage encryption and tokenization, streamlining the process of compliance while reducing expenses associated with the security effort. Contact Us Today to learn more about Safe-T, a range of easy to implement tools to keep your transactions secure and your business running smoothly.

Plan ahead, be vigilant, and don’t be hesitant to invest in protection protocols, so you can avoid becoming another statistic or cautionary tale for other business owners to learn from.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Blue Coat Photos @ Flickr CC.

Tags: credit card theft, cybersecurity, SMB Data Breaches

Why Business Services Companies Should Be Collecting Payments Online

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 1, 2017 10:40:50 AM

B2B Online Payments.jpegOnline payments have grown steadily in popularity, going from a transaction method that inspired suspicion to an accepted process that many use regularly. In the last few years, especially, mobile and online payments are practically expected by many retail consumers, who are used to being able to simply click a button to make their purchases.

With online payment methods being so rampant across most industries, why have so many business services companies, or B2B companies, held back?

In general, B2B companies are very focused on providing the best services they can for their customers and generally contract for more than one-time transactions. For this reason, payment methods, which typically involve invoices for record-keeping purposes, have not been a major focus for upgrades and advancements.

It might be time for that to change.

Companies that provide business services based on contracts or emergency calls might be surprised at how much their customers would appreciate an online bill or invoice pay option. Considering that more than 224 million people in the U.S. shopped online in 2016, spending a total of $68 billion in the first quarter of 2016 alone, it’s obvious that American consumers enjoy making online purchases. Undoubtedly, some of those individuals were business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s a safe bet that they would love the same convenience in their business services transactions as they enjoy with their consumer purchases.

The need for B2B business technology expansion isn’t limited to the business services sector either. For B2B suppliers and logistics firms, a new trend called “click-and-collect,” is gaining momentum and popularity. With this quick online payment method, the customer can simply log into the company’s website and click to purchase. The items can then be picked up by the customer for store use.

While there are logistics and supply challenges specific to the click-and-collect method, the use of online payments to increase accessibility, convenience, and speed for the customer is just what every B2B business needs for the following reasons:

Online payments save money—for you and your customer. Traditional payment methods, like cash, check, or money order, all cost money in their own right. The paper they’re printed on costs money. The act of processing them costs money. You even have to pay to send the payment to the company via mail or a cash courier service. Why go to all this hassle only to slowly lose money in the process? And it is costly, for both you and your client. With an online payment option, your customers can easily manage invoices, set up payments as needed, and conveniently cover their bills to you, without all the extra paper and manpower for processing.

Making payments online is both more convenient and easier to track.

Even better, online payments are amazing for record keeping. You and your customers can keep track of past payments and payment totals fairly easily, which comes in very handy if conflict arises over costs paid or unpaid. Of course, every online payment system will be different, but most have the same basic functions. Any system would make paying bills more convenient for your customers, and easier for you to process.

An online payment system is the “greener” option.

Finally, the most important detail about ditching paper checks and installing an online payment system is the environment. Using less paper creates less waste and uses fewer environmental resources for a process than can be replaced by a more efficient method. While there may be some political battles going on right now concerning the environment, adopting more green practices into your business is still a good selling point for your business--and a cost effective one. Best of all, it’s a very easy step to take, as online payment systems are incredibly easy to acquire and implement.

Finally, It’s Just More Secure.
Ever lost a check? With online payments businesses don’t have to worry about checks being lost in the mail, or making tedious trips to the bank. With the incredible advances in online payment security and multiple levels of authentication (address verification, security codes etc..) – having clients pay online is just a more secure option, period. 

Regardless of the business services or products your company offers, setting up a system for online payments is a wise practice. The easier you make it for your clients to pay their invoices or make quick purchases from your inventory, the more your clients will be able to pay their bills quickly and with the satisfaction of a convenient payment experience.

There’s a reason B2C companies have adopted online payments. Now, it’s time for B2B to catch up.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC

Tags: B2B Online Payments

Developing a Sound Strategy for B2B Cash Flow

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jan 25, 2017 9:48:17 AM

B2B Cash FlowManaging your cash flow is fundamental in business. But when your product or service is delivered to other businesses, known as B2B commerce, things can get a little complicated.

On the surface, B2B transactions are not so different from B2C, or business to consumer, transactions. A good or service is provided in exchange for payment. The biggest differences are present in the way your business will interact with the other business to attract new customers, deliver on your goods and services, and get paid.

Marketing for B2B requires a different tone and a certain mutually acknowledged respect. The standards will simply be higher, which will also impact service or product delivery. But the biggest difference is in billing and cash flow management.

In general, a B2B transaction is between two business savvy organizations, both of which are looking to get the best deal possible on the work. Consumers just aren’t as cutthroat about shopping around or the end results as a business will be. As such, your organization will have to act accordingly to make sure you get paid consistently and on time.

Below are some effective policies for managing your B2B cash flow, to protect yourself and to provide professional services for your clients.

Put everything in writing.

As nearly every source will tell you: when you start a business relationship, always get the details in writing. Expectations, dates, and payment terms should all be thoroughly detailed and agreed upon by both parties. There are several sample contracts available online that you can base your agreement on. If your company is larger and responsible for more valuable services or products, hiring a lawyer may be advisable to make sure you have sorted all the important details, caveats, and information.

Get a deposit.

For a smaller business, it can be intimidating to ask for a deposit on your services. In fact, it can be terrifying. However, a deposit is actually a common and well-accepted B2B practice that will add professionalism to your business dealings. It will cement the agreement from both sides and ensure that your organization is properly compensated for your time.

Invoice promptly and often.

The invoice is one of the most important parts of a B2B relationship, so make sure you’re on top of it from start to finish. You should send out invoices promptly, on the date of service if possible, and set clear deadlines and expectations for payment. If payments are not prompt, have an action plan in place to collect on those funds. As with a B2C situation, you are perfectly within your right to protect your cash flow by requesting funds you are owed.

Assign a dedicated accounts manager.

Managing cash flow in any situation is easiest when there is a dedicated manager set up to take care of accounts payable and receivable. No matter the size of your business, someone needs to be dedicated to this task, so you can make sure it gets accomplished. Even more, your accounts manager or business manager can build a relationship with your clients, which is extremely important in B2B. While collecting is within your rights, the mood and tenor of collection is very different from a B2C relationship.

Don’t be afraid to set deadlines, send reminders, and follow up.

If your agreement is not being adhered to by the other party, don’t be afraid to set clear deadlines, revisit expectations, and follow up on fulfillment. If the payment still doesn’t come through, terminate service immediately. Money isn’t everything, but it’s definitely the lifeblood of your business, and another company’s inability or refusal to meet the terms of the agreement is legitimate grounds for ending services or no longer providing products. This should have been clearly stated in your agreement from the beginning, so it shouldn’t be unexpected.

In the end, businesses thrive or die on cash flow, even B2B businesses—and who better to understand that fact than another business. If your cash flow hasn’t been what you expected or if you’re just getting started, us the tips above to help you get your money management situation on track quickly and efficiently. Cash flow doesn’t have to be a problem, as long as you make it a priority in your day-to-day operations.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: B2B Cash Flow Strategies