Customer experience is an integral piece of the buyer’s journey. Rising expectations on how buyers and sellers should engage are impacting the entire transaction process, prompting business-to-business (B2B) companies to opt for a more favorable payment experience—one that’s seamless and embedded within their back-office systems like ERPs, rather than tacked on as an afterthought.
When working with a typical payment processor, sellers are handing over their hard-won customers to a third party to handle payments. Unfortunately, these third parties lack the relationship and understanding of customers’ business operations that sellers have built—sometimes over the span of years—which can make handling discrepancies difficult.
Payment facilitators (PayFacs) can be exceptionally valuable for supporting the complexities and high data volumes of B2B transactions. Beyond supporting the seller’s needs and driving greater back-office efficiencies for them, a PayFac—and their ability to embed payments within an existing service—can greatly enhance the overall payment experience for buyers and suppliers.
Chris Wassenaar, Chief Risk Officer at Versapay, recently spoke with PYMNTS.com about the heightened focus on the B2B payment experience and how it’s driving greater interest in software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers becoming payment facilitators.
Watch the interview or read the transcript below to learn more about:
- The growth in popularity of payment facilitators and their value in the retail ecosystem
- The role payment facilitators play in reducing accounting risk
- What the future of B2B collaborative commerce looks like in the payments sector
The following transcription has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Chris: Hi, I'm Christopher Wassenaar, Versapay’s Chief Risk Officer. I have the pleasure of helping set up our global payment facilitator operations.
A payment facilitator—also known as a PayFac—is a merchant service provider that has integrated payment capabilities into an existing offering and their own infrastructure. They make it easier for merchants to get up and running accepting payments by eliminating the need for them to apply for their own merchant account (which can be a lengthy process).
As part of our global PayFac operations, we will be controlling much more of our B2B customer experience. And the most exciting part about it for me is while I'm technically in a risk and operations role, I get to directly impact the customer’s experience.
Q: Why have payment facilitators become more of a force over the past few years and why are they valuable in the context of the retail ecosystem?
Chris: Let’s think about a traditional independent sales or referral model. You can be a software company that’s worked for months—perhaps even years—chasing down a particular customer, you've convinced them of the value of your software, you've gotten them to sign an agreement, you're beginning to implement, yet there’s one small aspect remaining, which is the payment.
And at that point, you lose control of your customer’s experience with your brand, because you introduce a third party—a traditional payment processor—or a third party financial institution. Now, all the information that you have about that consumer—that relationship you built—is put in the hands of a third party, and they may not know anything about the consumer, or the merchant that you're trying to land.
It's a very powerless position to be in, because you've worked for months or years to build up that relationship, explain that value, and at the final mile, you've turned that over to a third party.
Q: How is in-house payments facilitation reducing accounting risk compared to legacy financial institutions, for example?
Chris: There are two different examples we can look at in terms of customer experience—what we call onboarding.
In this first instance, that of a service that does payment facilitation in-house, we can think about a use case where a software company has signed up a large merchant to their service—that true business-to-business (B2B) relationship. And in that B2B relationship, that software provider (especially if doing business with a company that has a similar business model) doesn’t have any concerns about the merchant’s credit profile because they’re very familiar with them.
But if you contrast that onboarding experience to the traditional model—where a company would have sold its software and not had embedded payments—well, now you've introduced this third party financial institution who may not be comfortable with a private equity ownership structure, or deferred revenue, or challenges on a balance sheet (whatever applies to that particular B2B customer).
We feel very comfortable with those risks because we understand them. So immediately, our B2B customer’s experience and onboarding is fundamentally transformed. We don't go to someone else—we make the credit decision ourselves, and we make it within 24 hours.
Q: Can you talk about the future of B2B collaborative commerce in the payments sector?
Collaborative commerce describes a model where there’s technology to support every aspect of a business’ interactions, which could be between their own employees or with people outside the business, like partners and customers. Collaborative commerce simplifies communication between buyers and sellers and gets systems working together, automating routine operations and eliminating the need for manual intervention.
Chris: One of the most unique things that I see in collaborative commerce, is an understanding of the incredible amounts of data that are associated with B2B payments.
And what do I mean by that? Well, you can have a traditional interaction in B2C (business-to-consumer) where you simply swipe a card to get your Starbucks smoothie, but if you think about applying that experience to B2B, that’s where things get exciting.
Consider the amount of data that’s in an invoice, the timing of that invoice, the fulfillment terms for that invoice, the interest rate charged for that invoice, whether it’s been pre-negotiated or not—the list goes on. Invoices contain all the different, important material aspects of information that businesses share, and to then layer in and integrate that with payments, well, that’s the future of collaborative commerce.