, UK

Payments 101: How to select the right provider for your business

By Anthony McNulty

The rise of online shopping has seen businesses across all sectors change the way their customers engage with them. The past two years in particular have witnessed extraordinary transformation, with retailers forced to dramatically improve their existing eCommerce capabilities due to the pandemic.

One thing that is often an afterthought for retailers is the processing of payments and selecting the right provider.

Anthony McNulty, Programme Director, GSV at Worldline, answers some key questions around selecting the right partner.

1. First off, what exactly is a payment service provider?
A payment service provider is a third-party company that delivers tailored solutions to businesses relating to online payments, such as online banking, credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets, cash cards, and more. Essentially their job is to ensure that a customer's transactions make it from point A to point B safely.

2. Once I’ve selected a partner, how does the project process work?
Using our own processes as an example, when it comes to the initial phase, we kick things off with a ‘Discovery and Design Phase’, where we bring together our own subject matter experts with those of our customer, to create a collaborative set of R&D type workshops.

During this stage we work jointly on the solution view as well as the programme management plan, a detailed project plan and a signed off set of requirements, around which we can build an effective solution.

To avoid bottlenecks, we normally start with a Statement of Work, even whilst the more detailed contractual agreements are still in progress. This is largely to reassure the customer and gain their trust, so we will – in some cases – work at risk simply to ensure that things progress without delay.

Like any organisation, we have our own delivery methodology, which is part waterfall and part agile. Typically, we manage a waterfall plan with our customers, whilst any new developments are delivered through Agile Sprints from our engineering centres. The target approach is to do all the talking and Sprint planning up front to minimise the need for a change of management during the delivery process. This approach is very popular with our customers and helps greatly with their internal stakeholder management.

3. Lengthy lead times have become a rising challenge - is this purely a symptom of the pandemic?
There are two topics to highlight here. Firstly, our customers are finding that lead times from network providers are surprisingly long now. Though we don’t deal directly with these network providers, it does seem to be a common theme that COVID-19 is at least partly responsible for the increase.

Secondly, from an Android POS perspective, our customers are also witnessing lengthy lead times for their preferred solutions. My interpretation is that there is such a surge towards Android POS now, that providers and suppliers are, quite simply, overwhelmed with demand.

4. What are some quick-fire takeaways that you would offer to customers looking to select a new payments provider?
The best piece of advice I could give to any business is to take time to research and learn about your prospective provider. Ask plenty of questions around their accepted payment methods, associated fees, settlement time, surcharges and even what they can offer beyond eCommerce services – for example if you also have brick and mortar operations.

Ascertain early on whether you will have the same people throughout procurement and delivery, what internal teams and Fintech/SME partners the provider can bring to you, and what will they need from you to make things happen. Another key point is on whether your provider’s delivery method will reduce change and risk later on in the project.

Something else to be aware of from the off, particularly if you are amid a busy RFP phase, is to avoid overlooking certain things that, in your mind, sit within the delivery stage. This can have consequences later. Guaranteed success means looking ahead. Be proactive, not reactive! 

As mooted above, disruptions like COVID-19, its impact on supply chains, device manufacturing and new network connections have brought about new challenges, in terms of longer lead times. Being ahead of the game will stand you in good stead for the future.

Taking the next steps
There are a range of payment providers available, and flexible/hybridised partnership options are usually available, depending on your specific needs. It is always a good idea to try and ascertain these options based on what your end customers are ultimately looking for. Finally, keep in mind that price is not the be all and end all. Trust and reliability are just as, if not more, critical to business success and customer satisfaction.

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