Selecting a payment solutions provider
Your business needs the right payment solutions provider to meet your specific requirements and contribute to your successful financial performance. The first step to achieving your desired results is to develop a comprehensive Request for Proposal (“RFP”).
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Successful RFP basics
A successful RFP should:
- Explicitly define the overall scope of your program
- Lay the groundwork for your business requirements
- Attract the most knowledgeable and experienced payment solutions providers in the industry
You should formulate your program requirements into questions that yield the best possible solutions, while allowing prospective providers the flexibility to offer additional input to demonstrate their capabilities.
You may use the following guidelines, organized by topic, for step-by-step assistance in developing your RFP. Included in certain topics are a set of “Suggested RFP Provider Questions” that have been provided to help you gather the relevant, detailed information you need from payment solutions providers in your evaluation of a commercial card program. Both the guidelines and the Suggested Questions are provided for general information only and are not intended to be prescriptive or to provide legal advice. You should work closely with your management to develop an RFP that is tailored to your organization’s specific requirements.
Your organization’s program information
Your RFP’s introductory section should begin with a profile of your organization and an explanation of payment program needs and objectives. This kind of information allows payment solutions providers to customize their proposal to your organization’s particular needs. Your profile should include:
- Type of business and industry segment
- Number of employees
- Current revenue
- Projected growth
- Payment programs currently in place
- Domestic and global operations
Include in the introduction any guidelines or administrative procedures for RFP submission (e.g., proposal due date, preferred format, etc.) and expected contract terms and conditions. It should also specify whether the proposal is for the entire organization or a particular division.
Payment solutions provider information
To help gain an overall understanding of a prospective payment solutions provider, you should ask for general information, such as the provider’s financial condition or an annual report, services offered, details of its existing commercial payment program business relationships, contact names, phone numbers, and up to three client references. Look for concrete evidence of the provider’s professionalism, competencies, and ability to deliver the program within your required time frame.
- Provide the following information: name of your company, headquarters location, year of incorporation, and state of incorporation. If applicable, provide the same information about your parent company.
- Provide bank contact information, including contact names and telephone numbers.
- Provide your most recent financial information, including an annual report or other financial statements. Note if your company has ever filed for bankruptcy.
- Describe what you consider to be your unique selling proposition that differentiates you from other programs and services.
- Provide three client references.
Global program offering
If you require a global program, identify the number of employees and countries where they reside to determine if cards will need to be issued in the local language and currency for those countries. Provide specific details for each country where the employee population warrants a program. In response, the solutions provider should be able to assist you in understanding the local market, customs, business protocols, and regulations to efficiently manage your global program.
If your organization has made technological investments into eProcurement, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and/or Electronic Expense Reporting solutions, explain your domestic and/or global commercial payment and data integration requirements. Also specify whether financial data and transaction information must be consolidated to your organization’s headquarters (at a global level) and/or at the regional office location.
- Describe your global reach and approach to serving multinational clients.
- Provide details on your global program, including number of cards, number of clients and total charge volume. Discuss your immediate and long-term plans to increase or reduce your investment in the program.
- Describe any partnerships, marketing alliances, or other business relationships in place with technology vendors (e.g., eProcurement, Enterprise Resource Planning, or Electronic Expense Reporting).
- List the major technological innovations you have invested in over the last three years and how these technological innovations have improved your customers’ processes and reduced their costs.
- Describe how your programs and services vary from country to country.
Features of product offering
Your commercial payment program should provide:
- Strong global acceptance that allows you to review more transactions electronically, reduce company cash advances, minimize manual transaction data entry, and have more control over employee spending
- Employee satisfaction and confidence to conduct business transactions with greater ease, security, and flexibility worldwide
- Opportunities to expand traditional and non-traditional Business-to-Business merchant acceptance worldwide
- Adequate collection of enriched transaction data from Business-to-Business merchants to increase your ability to negotiate supplier discounts
Consider providing a list of your current suppliers to allow prospective payment solutions providers to identify how many of these suppliers currently accept commercial cards. It will also provide them with an opportunity to address those suppliers not currently accepting commercial cards and offer solutions for enrollment and delivery of enhanced data.
- State the number of merchants accepting your card, worldwide and by country. Discuss any merchant expansion efforts.
Security and fraud
Most payment solutions providers have substantial resources dedicated to monitoring security protocols, including systems and services to prevent fraudulent card use by company employees and external parties. It is of vital importance that you understand:
- The provider’s domestic and global security and fraud services
- If the provider is in compliance with international data privacy laws
- How fraudulent activity is monitored
- If any liability waiver programs exist, as well as what card controls/parameters may be considered to minimize fraudulent activity
- How your organization will be protected in the event of fraudulent card use by cardholders and third parties, including fraudulent Internet, Mail Order/Telephone Order (MO/TO), and face-to-face transactions
- Describe what happens if fraudulent charges are incurred before a card is reported missing.
- Describe what protection and controls you offer to minimize fraudulent card use by cardholders and third parties. How do you screen transaction activity for fraudulent patterns?
- Outline the controls available with your commercial card programs. Do they include MCC code blocking? Transaction limits? Monthly limits?
- Describe how you comply with applicable data privacy requirements for cardholder data. What security measures do you have in place to safeguard data?
It’s essential that a prospective payment solutions provider be able to offer you a variety of liability options based on your needs and/or the regulatory environment in each country where you operate.
- Describe the liability options available. Do you offer corporate liability, joint and several liability, contingent liability, or individual liability?
- Describe any insurance offered through your card programs, including who and what is covered, amount of coverage, any restrictions, and how these may vary around the world.
Billing and payment
In order to maximize your business process efficiencies, look for a payment solutions provider that offers flexible billing options (central and/or individual) to meet your domestic and global business needs and determine whether it can deliver data in a physical and/or online format. Request that the provider include a sample statement copy with its proposal. As part of your commercial payment program, make sure that your solutions provider is able to offer your organization flexible payment terms.
- Describe the billing options available.
- Describe the details incorporated on the billing statement. Can invoices be customized? Provide a sample billing statement.
- Describe the payment terms available.
Enhanced data and reporting
Enhanced data, reporting options, and data integration are keys to a successful commercial card program. To get a comprehensive sense of these capabilities, your RFP should include:
- Requirements for standard or enhanced transaction data, any back-office systems integration, and necessary reporting types
- Headquarter-based and/or regional report consolidation requirements (including, e.g., your ability to view reports in combined and/or multiple currencies)
- Physical and/or online historical reporting requirements and delivery mechanisms of direct data feeds (e.g., formats)
- Requirements for custom reports, accounting systems G/L references, and/or mapping spending with G/L codes
- Processes for handling/reconciling discrepancies
- Security protocols
- Socioeconomic and tax reporting needs
- Language requirements
Ask the solutions provider to share sample reports and explain how your organization will be able to access and create custom domestic/global reports and if it is possible to integrate the data into your back-office systems. If you are operating global travel programs, it may be important for you to understand the level of air, hotel, and auto rental data (by supplier) that can be captured in order to assist in vendor negotiations and policy compliance reporting.
- Describe your consolidated global reporting capabilities, including management information reporting, summary reporting, and detail level reporting. Provide any sample reports. What is the standard format of delivery and other available options?
- Describe your options for customized reporting. How often can reports be generated?
- Describe your methods for ensuring data accuracy on a global scale.
- Describe the level of detail available by type of supplier for each of the following: airlines, hotel chains, and car rentals.
- List the hotel chains that provide hotel folio data.
- Describe your global Value Added Tax (VAT) program .
Customer satisfaction is vital to the success of any commercial payment program. Be sure to ask the payment solutions provider about its customer service offerings, including available domestic and/or global cardholder customer service, language support, and what local implementation capabilities will be provided.
You may also want to determine which cardholder questions will be handled by the solutions provider’s customer service representatives (e.g., assistance with emergency services, account-related dispute questions, and lost or stolen card replacement), and whether the provider offers online support as well as telephone support. Other service areas to consider include how the provider is set up to handle disaster preparation and recovery plans and how the provider measures customer service and quality assurance.
- Describe your customer service capabilities for cardholders, hours of availability, emergency/after-hours support, and web-based applications for support.
- Describe the dispute resolution process, including timeframe and responsibilities of the parties involved. Are disputed items removed from the invoice while under investigation?
- Describe the process for lost, stolen, and replacement cards, including time required to receive a new card and any charges incurred.
- Outline the metrics that will be used to measure your customer service performance and results.
- Describe your company’s disaster preparation and recovery plans.
- Describe your quality assurance procedures.
You should gather as much information as possible about the support and resources that the payment solutions provider intends to offer. The prospective solutions provider should work with you to develop and manage a detailed project plan for card issuance. In addition, the provider should explain program hierarchy capabilities, billing account and card account types, and how card program management changes may be handled.
- Describe what options are available for card design (e.g., company logo, background image, etc.).
- Describe the process for issuing new cards, including the credit approval process.
- Describe how new cardholders are added to your system and the process for renewing commercial cards.
- Explain your deactivation and card cancellation process. How do you remove cardholders from your system?
- Explain your procedures with respect to overdue/delinquent accounts.
- Describe all cash advance options you offer.
- Is online account program management available for Program Administrator use? If so, please describe.
- Is online account management available for cardholder use? If not, when will it be made available?
Implementation and ongoing support
Ask the payment solutions provider to provide a detailed project plan, which maps out the entire implementation process and all of the resources that will be available during that process. The plan should explain whether or not your organization will be given a dedicated implementation manager, and if so, a list of his or her key responsibilities. It should also list any other resources and their roles and responsibilities, and should include an implementation schedule that allows you to determine whether or not the plan meets your program timeline.
The provider should be able to provide ongoing training and/or online tools to maximize program expansion and success once the program has been implemented. Establish whether they will be able to help you to set commercial payment program goals, compare best practices that benchmark program success, and calculate and monitor measurable financial objectives to continually improve your program.
Make sure the provider explains the type of ongoing support and account maintenance personnel that will be assigned to help manage your commercial program (including tasks like card issuance, card cancellation, and credit-limit adjustments, as well as more strategic functions, such as program expansion).
- List the resources that will be available to us during implementation. Will there be dedicated implementation managers? If so, what will be their roles and responsibilities?
- Provide an implementation schedule including tasks, action owners and projected timeframes for completion.
- Describe the initial and ongoing training you provide. Will the training be designed specifically for Program Administrators and cardholders?
- Describe the account managers who will be responsible for our company’s account. Describe these managers’ roles and responsibilities and how they will interact with our company.
Design the final portion of your RFP to help you clearly see the entire value of the program. The payment solutions provider should present a clear summary of how the contract process works and all fees and/or volume discounts associated with your program.
- List all fees associated with your cards (annual fees, cash advance fees, late fees, replacement fees, etc.).
- Provide your methodology and processing for foreign currency conversion.
- Describe the global contract process.
A comprehensive Commercial Payment Program RFP that clearly spells out your business requirements and functional specifications is a vital first step to identifying and partnering with the right payment solutions provider. By clearly stating your commercial payments program objectives and asking the right questions throughout the RFP process, your organization will establish the proper framework to compare competing provider offers and receive the best possible solutions to meet all of your organization’s requirements.
If you have additional questions, please contact your commercial banker at a Visa Financial Institution.