Choosing a Payment Service Provider: 5 Essential Questions to Consider
Finding the right payment service provider is a game-changer for your firm.
For one thing, a good online payment provider will help you cut down on paper checks and speed up the payment cycle. It still takes 88 days for law firms to get paid (and some of our partner CPA firms even spend 5+ hours a week on payment collection.)
Using the right payment provider will also help you cover all the bases on security and compliance – essential for firms that deal with sensitive client data.
But with a dizzying array of payment platforms and options on the market, it can be challenging to know where to begin. To make the most informed decision, here are five essential questions you need to ask.
1. How Does the Integration Strategy Work for Your Business Type?
As the payments industry evolves, many fintech and financial services companies are making rosy promises about “artificial intelligence” and “end-to-end invoicing automation.” That doesn’t mean they can deliver on your firm’s actual payment needs today.
This is why it’s important to ask how a payment service provider will fit into your existing tech stack.
Good starting questions include:
- Do you integrate with our practice management system?
- How will your online payment options be added to my website?
- What is on the product roadmap for my industry?
- How do you determine which integrations are prioritized first?
It’s better to find a “best-of-breed” payment service provider with expertise in your field than a one-stop shop with technology investments across many solutions. After all, payments are one area you can’t afford to have anything less than robust, ongoing support.
Bottom line: Look for providers that have a clear roadmap for product development. You also want to see that the provider is actively investing in core functionality, not pouring money into technologies your team won’t use.
2. Does the Provider Meet Your Security Needs?
If people care about anything with their payments, it’s security. Your payment service provider should use the latest security protocols to protect both your business and your clients’ personal information.
At a minimum, your provider needs strong SSL encryption protocols, tokenization, and multi-factor authentication to protect cardholder data. Providers must also measure up to Payment Card Industry Data or PCI Security Standards, so your vendor should be crystal clear upfront that they are “PCI Compliant.”
Additional Security Needs for Professional Services Firms
Some professionals deal with a higher level of client vulnerability and risk than others. Their payment service provider will need to follow specific rules to accommodate.
For example: When a law firm holds client funds for a long time, they need to be placed in a secure IOLTA account (short for Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts) so that the client’s lawyers can’t benefit financially from interest earned during the case.
That means a payment service provider for law firms needs to have:
- The ability to easily track between the firm’s operating and IOLTA accounts, and
- Zero merchant fees on any deposits to the IOLTA account.
3. What Payment Types Do They Offer?
From Apple Pay to Zelle, people are getting comfortable with all types of online transactions. But how many options do you really need to accept at your professional services firm?
Your payment service provider should of course offer competitive credit card and ACH processing, as these are the most established ways to pay online. These services all come with different fee structures (read item #4 for a deep dive.)
Here are a few other payment options that can help professionals upgrade their client experience.
Did you know clients can send you ACH transfers directly from their banking app? If your payment service provider offers a Bill Pay service, that will help to reassure clients with security concerns and ensure you never get paid late again.
Your regular clients will thank you for this one. Set them up on a recurring schedule so that the funds will be automatically drawn from their checking account or credit card. This is usually a service that comes with standard credit card and ACH processing, but some providers also offer advanced setup options that create more flexibility for clients.
Financing and Extended Credit
Even the best clients sometimes need extra time to pay. Rather than sending them to the bank for loan application, you should consider offering a financing or installment plan through your firm. That will also help them afford all the services they need today, instead of postponing due to cash flow.
4. Are There Any Hidden Fees or Costs?
The cost of using a payment provider can vary significantly, so pay close attention to what you’ll be paying each month.
On top of monthly fees, many providers will charge separate fees for processing, transaction costs, and initial account setup. Alternatively, the provider will charge differently based on your processing volume.
Either way, it’s important to know about these common pricing tactics and come prepared with questions.
Ask About Your Surcharging Options
Another thing to keep in mind: There are only two states where you can’t pass a credit card surcharge down to the client.
Firms may get hit with excessive merchant fees of 3 – 5% because the provider doesn’t advertise (or support) client surcharging. But this is a standard practice that does not deter most clients from paying with a credit card.
Check Out the Chargeback and Refund Policies, Too
Be wary of any provider that claims to bypass chargebacks and refunds. There is always a risk that your client could dispute their purchase. So rather than avoiding the risk of chargebacks altogether, ask what the payment service provider will do to mitigate that risk and how they will work with your firm to resolve disputes.
5. Is the User Interface Simple to Use and Navigate?
It goes without saying, but no one will pay their bill online if the user interface is annoying or difficult to use.
Not only does it undermine the core security claims of your payment service provider, but it adds unnecessary friction for your client.
The payment process should be simple to navigate for both you and your customers. If the payment process is even remotely overcomplicated, it will lead to abandoned transactions and a poor client experience.
Discover a Trusted Payment Platform for Professional Service Firms
Since 2009, QuickFee has been offering a secure suite of ACH, credit card, and financing options for accounting and law firms.
There are no monthly or setup fees. And it’s as easy as adding your unique QuickFee payment portal to your website and invoices.