by Amy Bussler
Buying equipment from new manufacturers, or even new models from established manufacturers, could seem risky to the ISO. After all, the marketing hype may look great, but how do you know it will really work for you? Most important of all - is the equipment certified? If not, you'll end up with a useless and expensive paperweight (unless you go through the hassle of finding another processor).
There are many misconceptions surrounding certification. At first glance, it seems like a confusing and intimidating system. But certification is really a sensible and systematic process whereby the processor gives a seal of approval to a new model.
In a nutshell, certification means the software application inside the hardware works properly and can be routed to the processor's system. It also defines whether your processor offers help desk support for a particular model.
Levels of Certification
How does certification affect what you're doing with your merchants? It's pretty straightforward. There are two classes of certification: A and B. If equipment is certified at either level, you can rest assured that your processor will accept transactions from the terminal. The difference is the degree to which the processor approves the terminal software, as well as help desk support.
Class A certification affirms that the manufacturer's application inside the hardware can be routed to the processor's system. It's the strongest seal of approval from the processor. The processor stands behind the accuracy of the software inside the terminal. It also means that help desk support is available for that product line. For equipment to be class A certified, the processor feels very comfortable that the transaction is secure and reliable. Also, the processor believes volume in the field is large enough to warrant help desk support.
Class B certification also affirms the security and accuracy of the transaction, but the processor does not provide help desk support.
Keep in mind that just because a model is not Class A certified does not necessarily mean it is inferior. In many cases, new terminals are multiplying faster than certification processes can keep up. As a result, many manufacturers - both old and new - have a mix of class A and B certifications. Many manufacturers obtain Class B certification first and then get in line for Class A approval.
An Uphill Battle for Manufacturers
Not all equipment is certified by all processors. Certification is granted on an individual basis for each model. There are about 15-20 major processors out there and each has its own list of supported equipment.
Certification can be a long process. Manufacturers and processors make a significant investment in research and dollars to bring a new model on board. Virginia Lewis, Director of Corporate Relations, Vital Processing Services, explains: "We do thorough testing to make sure the applications are reliable, secure and efficient. There's no room for shortcuts when verifying transaction accuracy and security. Vital certifies an average of one and a half terminal applications a day." As a downside, because of the cost and time involved, this process can tend to work against smaller manufacturers. They may have an uphill battle to convince a processor that their equipment is worthy of consideration, particularly for Class A certification.
Some manufacturers have found a way to augment Class B certification by providing their own help desk support. This is a sensible move, as help desk support is essential for merchants. Thales e-Transactions (formerly Dassault) follows this track. Justin Collins, Product Manager at Thales, explains, "While it was expensive for us to implement an in-house help desk, it has been worthwhile. We've increased the number of terminals in the field, which has encouraged more processors to consider our products for Class A certification. But until that happens, we're confident that merchants are getting the support they need with our help desk."
What About Wireless?
The situation with wireless terminals is a little more complicated. Most often, wireless transactions are routed through an intermediary gateway, such as US Wireless. The gateways then transmit the data to the processor. Scott Kreher, National Sales Manager at LinkPoint, explains, "Our LinkPoint 9000 wireless terminal communicates through the Motient network to US Wireless. US Wireless handles the transaction from there. With this arrangement, there's no need for our terminal to communicate directly with the front end."
Less commonly, terminal transactions can be sent directly to the processor. But in order for this to happen, the processor must have direct connectivity to the data network (Motient, CDPD, etc.) so the transaction doesn't need routing through a gateway. Think of it as the business equivalent of an ISDN line for web access.
Processors do offer certification for wireless terminals. As with all terminals, the software must be tested for accuracy and help desk support remains a factor. With wireless terminals, if a merchant needs help desk support, they would most likely call the processor first. But, they could also call the gateway. It just depends on what the particular problem may be.
When considering new equipment, it is essential to consult your processor. Make sure the equipment you're considering is certified for their network. Look into your options for help desk support. Once that's out of the way, your choices are wide open to choose the best equipment for your merchants.
Amy Bussler is Marketing Manager at CDE Services, Inc. The company provides equipment remanufacturing, merchant fulfillment programs, supplies and equipment sales. You may reach CDE Services at 800-858-5016 or www.cdeinc.com.