There are good reasons to switch to a more robust payment platform: it can deliver clear benefits like better approval ratios, enhanced reporting, quicker funding, global payment acceptance and improved security. But with your business humming along, you may not have made time for the transition.
The changeover can be extremely simple if you’re not switching gateways; if you are, it’s a bigger task. By mapping out a migration project that includes plenty of testing and a solid contingency plan, the transition can happen without any impact on your business or customer satisfaction.
First, consider the following five questions to get an understanding of transition steps. Second, use our checklist to begin creating your project plan.
1. What’s your current setup?
The technical scope of your transition will be determined by your current setup and how you accept card payments. If you use a virtual terminal, you’ll simply receive a new merchant identification number and a link with step-by-step instructions. Within minutes, you’ll be processing payments on the new platform.
If you have a more sophisticated e-commerce or receivables implementation that uses a third-party API – for example to handle recurring billing – moving to your new merchant services provider will be straightforward but you’ll need to loop any third parties into your project plan. You can also tap your bank’s advisory team for support. Start by pointing your developers to a sandbox to help them become familiar with tools available to them.
2. What are your current business needs?
Your business may have evolved since you set up your last merchant processing account. To ensure you’ll make the best use of payment innovations and reporting options currently available, consider these questions:
- Could a broader array of payment options help you grow market share?
- What kinds of reports and transaction information do you want to set up to support analytics and decision-making?
- Do you expect volume to grow, or are you planning international expansion?
Define the optimal use case so that your new implementation will support your goals.
3. Is your housekeeping done?
If you’ve previously handled payments via an intermediary service – also known as an aggregator – you may not have had to meet some standard industry requirements, but to gain your own merchant account you need to adhere to some e-commerce best practices. Specifically, your website should disclose all your terms and conditions, such as privacy, shipping, returns, cancellations and refund policies. Those policies will protect you in the long run, especially when it comes to disputing chargebacks. Your merchant services advisor will also give you a list of the financial statements to submit in order to be approved for merchant status.
4. When do you want to complete the switch?
Depending on your implementation and the resources you can devote to it, you can expect the process to take from one to four months (if you’re not switching gateways, the process can take less than a day). Develop a time frame for terminating your existing processor relationship. To ensure payment continuity during the process, it’s prudent to keep the existing and the new platform running in parallel for some time. You may want to continue this for 180 days after the switch to make certain any remaining transaction issues are resolved. Once you terminate your existing contract, retain your old records in case of an audit.
5. What should you do first?
One of the biggest hurdles in making the payment platform migration is simply making it a priority. An can help you identify the resources you’ll need to get the job done. Use the checklist below to outline a project plan and run it by key stakeholders to get buy-in on a start date.
Checklist: Create a plan for your payments platform migration
Mapping out your transition to a new payments platform will help the process run smoothly. Each task and check-in along the way will help you migrate on time and without business disruption.
Use this checklist to help you get started on your project plan.
- Identify, engage and inform key stakeholders. Your successful migration requires support and involvement from key stakeholders. Determine who from executive leadership and your peer community needs to be in the know. Educate them about the payoff of the migration, the steps being taken to minimize transition impact and the timeline. Focus on payback that aligns with company goals and their priorities. Provide routine updates so the project remains a priority.
- Assemble the right project team. It’s important to involve your finance department leadership, such as your CFO or VP of Finance, so that the new platform’s reporting tools are set up to meet their needs from the start. On the IT side, assign an experienced developer. Relying on someone who is just learning how to work with the relevant APIs and sandboxes will likely slow down the process. Consider involving training, marketing, legal and risk management as appropriate.
- Allocate the appropriate hours and budget. Before the project kicks off, assign the necessary team hours and dollars to it. Making sure you have dedicated staff who can focus on the migration is a key factor in sticking to your timeline.
- Develop a timeline. Set a schedule that identifies milestones for each phase from the upfront business analysis to gathering requirements, coding, setting up the system, testing and certification, and launch. Understand your customers’ peak and off-peak buying patterns so you go live when volumes are the lowest, minimizing any potential payment flow disruption. Schedule regular update meetings with task owners to check the timeline and resolve issues.
- Review your business continuity plan. There is always a chance for some kind of disruption when new systems are in place and employees are learning how to use them. A contingency plan will help build internal support for this migration too. If you’re currently accepting card payments, review the existing contingency plan to ensure it is sufficient. If you’re new to card acceptance, devise a plan for potential glitches, such as terminal malfunctions and fraud.
- Plan to test throughout the process . As with any technology implementation, testing is critical to a seamless migration. Be sure to test as you go through the process. Don’t skimp on the amount of time and resources needed to guarantee comprehensive testing, especially as you prepare to go live
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Read more in our series about how to optimize your company's payments tools and processes on SVB's Payments Trends & Insights page.
Step-by-step slide guide via SlideShare.