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What the Movie Industry Taught me about Merchant Processing Services

Strategically Speaking
Apr 2, 2014

Rob Hudecek Author: Rob Hudecek,

My father is a Director of Photography with over 40 years of experience working in film and television. Growing up in the “industry” allowed me the unique opportunity to become a lighting film crew member for several films, including “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with Julia Roberts and “Hoffa” with Jack Nicholas and Danny DeVito (and to date was the best part-time job I have ever had). Fortunately, this was not a position that was simply given to me, and I had to earn and learn my way from the ground up.

If you have ever watched behind-the-scenes footage of a film being made, you will notice there are more parts and people behind the camera than there are in the front. From lighting to grip equipment, to cables to set decoration, my biggest challenge starting out was knowing what equipment and configuration to use in order to create a scene that seemed natural to the viewer. Seeking advice from my father, he simply stated that he always starts with what he wants the scene to look like and then works backwards from there. Creativity without knowledge only gets you part of the way, as you also need to understand the capabilities and limitations of the equipment and people attached to the project in order for any scene to succeed.

Lights camera action

This same advice can be used for almost any industry. Often times we emphasize, or even get overwhelmed by, the number of tools we have at our disposal, rather than visualizing the solution first and working backwards. When offering merchant treasury services, from remote deposit capture to lockbox, this is no less true. As the number of financial software features and modules continue to grow, it is easy to lose sight of what the merchant actually needs to accomplish their goals. Where we see software tools, merchants only see the presented solution. Just as in a film scene, every merchant’s need is a little different, and there is often more than one way to fulfill them. Where many service offerings fall short and customer frustrations arise is when we try to standardize the merchant, rather than make the service a natural extension of their business. The two ways to begin this process is by knowing your merchant and knowing the available tools.

Know Your Merchant

We often use this statement exclusively for risk; however this same approach can be used to help set the merchant “scene” as well:

  • What type of business do they have?
  • What type of payments do they receive (check, cash, credit card, reoccurring, payment portals, etc.)?
  • Know their payment volumes (monthly / seasonal highs & lows).
  • Additional image requirements (i.e. coupon / correspondence / envelopes including scannable versus non-scannable item handling).
  • Field records that need to be captured and interfaced with their receivables and / or payables.
  • Turnaround / cutoff times as well as physical / image item retention requirements.
  • Industry or specific features & requests (PCI Compliance, HIPAA, and so forth).

Know Your Tools

Strong awareness of the available software features is required to construct the solution for your merchant:

  • Hardware and operating system environments supported for the merchant.
  • What scanner capabilities do they need (auto feed, endorsements, mixed work, speed, OCR capable, and so forth)?
  • Real-time, near real-time, or batch posting requirements.
  • Scalability based on merchant growth (additional volume, locations, etc.).
  • Security and division of duties.
  • Customized branding and integration into current platforms.
  • Ability to support the merchant (technical and best practice recommendations).

Though you may not be able to standardize every merchant scenario, you can make the solutions appear like they are. Start employing a shared vision with your merchant, backed by knowledge of all the available software tools. From this baseline you can often leverage “in the box” products to create the necessary “out of the box” solutions for your customers.

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