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Integrated payment systems: Fad or future?

There are so many buzzwords tossed around in business today, sometimes things that can really help your business get trapped with the trend du jour.

So what about integrated payments — just another hot topic or something that can really help your business?

Integrated payments is a broad topic that typically includes tools businesses use to streamline a number of business functions, including parts of accounting, customer relationship management (CRM) and payment processing. For example, an integrated payment system could be programmed to put all payment data directly into your accounting software (e.g., Quickbooks) saving the time needed for that task and allowing you to focus on analyzing what your sales numbers might be telling you.

This provides you with three direct benefits:

  • Saves time. Because data does not have to be entered into one or more different programs, duplicate work is eliminated.

  • Reduced errors. Because the required data is pulled directly from a single source, the chances of errors in data entry are nearly eliminated.

  • More time and focus on reading the numbers. Many tools will give you a better idea of what your sales data mean and help you grow your business. For example, you might be able to quickly notice the sales of a certain item increased or decreased suddenly so you can investigate why.

One of the biggest questions you’ll need to ask is “what do I really need in a system?” Integrated systems can have literally dozens of features, but if you can only use a handful, there’s no reason to pay for things that won’t help your business grow or be more efficient.

Here are a few questions to ask as you consider an integrated payments system:

  • Where can I save the most time? If data entry is big for you, look for a system that reduces or eliminates that task. If secure data storage for repeat customers would streamline your business (and make it easier to do business with you), make that a priority.

  • Can you add future features without starting over? Like many industries, the payments industry is rapidly changing. If you don’t think you’re quite ready for a feature like mobile payments today, you might need a feature to stay competitive in the coming months. Make sure you select the right degree of flexibility and future-proofing for your business.

  • Is it secure? Make sure every element of your system has the highest level of compliance and support for required changes and upgrades moving forward. It’s clear that data breaches and other hacks are becoming more and more common, and while there’s no magic bullet, make sure you’re using a state-of-the-art system. This is important not only for actual protection, but substandard systems could also expose you to potential liability should something go wrong.

  • Can I get the support that I need? You’ve got a business to run, and that business probably isn’t all about figuring out your new integrated payments system. Make sure you work with someone that can not only show you how to get started, but assist you with questions or concerns down the road.

Remember: any system, including an integrated payments system, should save time or improve efficiency or accuracy. If you find any system is adding tasks or complexity, it’s probably not the right systems for you (or, you need some help to fine tune it for your needs). In the end, a good integrated payments system that’s right for your business can be one of your most valuable business tools.