Best Practices in Merchant Onboarding

Technology has brought about rapid evolution in the payments sector. The market has shifted dramatically, meaning that for acquirers, ISOs, ISVs and PayFacs operating in this space, vanilla service is no longer enough. They need to provide added value to attract and retain merchants. However, taking card payments is widely seen as a commodity service and merchants need a good reason to switch. If the sales and onboarding process falls flat, you’re off to a losing start. It all starts with better merchant onboarding, from initial enquiry to live merchant account. Here is our guide to best practice.


The ecommerce boom, the advent of smart technology and the ever-present nature of social media mean that today’s consumers demand instant access. This puts pressure on merchants and brands to be available to their customers 24/7, which means they need to work with service providers that help them achieve this high level of customer service. Much like consumers, merchants don’t want to wait for weeks for their manual (and even paper) application to be processed by a new potential payment provider. They want to be up and running in minutes. If they can get this level of service with a business banking account, why not a merchant account? From a customer perspective, acquirers, ISOs, ISVs and PayFacs need to utilise it to speed up their onboarding process and attract more merchants.


Automation is key to speeding up merchant onboarding. It can help accelerate the process by up to 40%. Traditional merchant onboarding processes are manual, time-consuming and prone to falling down because of delays or simple human error. Automating the merchant onboarding process can make it quicker and slicker, by helping to validate data, reduce input errors and create system-driven quotes to maximise sales conversions, as well as managing compliance and underwriting checks according to the acquirers’ needs to keep everyone involved safe and compliant.

‘Plug and Play’ technology

Getting your relationship with your new merchant off to the best possible start is essential. A slick and seamless automated sign-up process can help attract and secure new merchants to your payments business, but if things break down once they’ve signed on the dotted line, all your hard work could go to waste. Faster merchant set up is a vital part of the merchant onboarding process. It provides the opportunity to quickly deploy the equipment and technology merchants need to take payments straight away. So, this part of the process needs to be as seamless and hassle-free as your sign-up.

If everything is ready for your new merchant to ‘plug and play’ straight out of the box, they’ll be a happy customer. If it’s not intuitive to set up and get ready to go, they’ll simply throw it to the back of the drawer before it even gets a single use – and your brand reputation is damaged in the process. So, ensure all the software, training materials and other information the merchant needs to get up and running are preloaded onto the device or shipped with it, so your new customer has everything they need from day one.

Continuous Monitoring

Risk management is an ongoing requirement that doesn’t stop after a merchant has been onboarded. The world of business moves fast, and many companies, particularly smaller, more agile enterprises, need to pivot or change tack at short notice to remain competitive. With those changes, their customer profile may change. As a merchant’s business grows, they may need to enter new markets or change how they accept payments to enable a wider variety of card types or payment methods. With this, their risk profile could also change and leave your business exposed.

Some form of ongoing monitoring is the key to identifying potential changes in a merchant’s sales activities, which could affect their risk criteria. Keeping track of metrics, including spikes in sales activity, exceeding payment thresholds, out of area or unusual sales activities and changing website products or links, will provide you with an up-to-date picture of each merchant you work with and highlight any potential areas of concern. So, too, will keeping an eye out for their inclusion on sanction lists and any negative or adverse mentions in the media.

After Sales

With the right processes and service proposition in place, it’s still far easier and more cost-effective to keep your current merchants than to acquire new ones. While acquiring new merchants leads to growth, keeping your existing merchants happy leads to sustainable long-term revenue. As such, it’s vital that you stay in regular contact with your merchants, so they feel supported, cared for and engaged. While it can be costly to manage smaller merchants that generate little margin, they still need to be retained. So, it’s about focusing on cost-effective mechanisms to enable good customer relationship management.

Ongoing marketing and engagement are one thing. Providing regular content that is relevant, engaging and shows your merchants how you can add value to them will help ensure that attrition does not become a problem. So, too, is investing in digitised solutions that automate many of the manual processes involved in customer service but don’t take away the personal touch. Automating your customer service creates opportunities to reduce your human touchpoints when they’re inefficient or unnecessary, through solutions including:

  • Self-service portals or knowledge bases
  • Preloaded email responses, based on ‘if this, then that’ logic
  • Live chat, virtual agents or chatbots (overseen by customer support)
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

Striking the right balance here is essential. While automation will never replace the need to build personal relationships with merchants, it should make it easier to do so.

Achieve better merchant onboarding with Datam

At Datam, we recognise the complexity and inefficiency of the traditional approach to selling merchant services and the frustrations they cause. We’ve been at the sharp end of the industry for many years and believe there’s a better way. Why should businesses wait days or even weeks for their card processing service when they can be up and running within minutes? Our revolutionary approach to merchant journey management aims to simplify the entire process, using our expertise and skills to help our customers overcome all their onboarding problems.

We’re on a mission to transform the world of merchant onboarding by providing an innovative technology platform that enables our customers to increase sales, improve efficiency, ensure compliance and enhance productivity. This goes beyond automation to the complex orchestration of every task involved in signing up new customers, whilst ensuring compliance is at the forefront of every sales engagement.
To find out more, give us a call today.