Magazine Article | July 18, 2014

What Does EMV Mean To VARs?

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By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @monocello

As a VAR working with merchants and selling any combination of POS hardware, software, and payment processing, you’re in the middle of the EMV topic. If you feel like EMV is currently a point of frustration with the distant hope of turning into something lucrative, you’re not alone.

EMV = Challenges
“The biggest challenge is getting processors to come up with the standards they plan to use,” laments Chris Rumpf, owner of Rumpf Computer Solutions. “We’ll be ready when the deadline comes, and so will the software that we sell, but it seems like processors are the ones that are stalling the process. We still haven’t received a list of compatible hardware for any processor.”

Bob Bauer, president of BMC, finds it frustrating that most hospitality ISVs cannot provide their strategy for EMV, which is not surprising at all if you read ahead to the article on page 4. While EMV is on the radar of many ISVs, most are still waiting for clarity around standards.

Rob Barron, operations, BECPOS, finds it challenging that most merchants are averse to spending money on technology, and mom & pop establishments aren’t technical enough to grasp the importance of EMV.

Customers Aren’t Smart Regarding EMV
Jason Cowan, president of Cowans Restaurant Solutions/ Spark Solutions Group says it’s confusing to the customer as to what EMV means to them. In fact, he says there’s next to no educational information available to merchants.

Rumpf agrees. “Most merchants are unaware that this is happening. The ones that are, have no idea what it is, when it’s happening, or why it’s necessary.”

“Merchants’ EMV info mostly comes from what they hear on the street, and then they take an ostrich approach and bury their heads,” says Barron. “Part of this is the industry’s fault. There’s a lack of information, lack of advertising, and a lack of faith that this is going to be the answer.”

Due to such poor information coming from the payments industry, Bauer and other VARs looking to be seen as thought leaders have taken it upon themselves to educate their customers.

VARs Need Help Too
Until ISVs get their own questions answered, the burden of EMV education will fall on VARs. But if there isn’t a lot of clarity in the payments and ISV space on EMV, how can you, as a VAR, know the right things to tell your customers?

Just a couple months ago, Business Solutions surveyed its readers and asked about interest in a variety of topics. Specifically, we asked which educational content topics interested them. Out of a list of 17 payments- and POS-related topics, “U.S. EMV adoption” scored among the lowest. Am I to believe that our VAR readers know everything about EMV? No, we just established that there isn’t a lot of information out there. Rather, it seems like many VARs are in the same boat as merchants. Some VARs are keeping EMV in their sights, some know a little, and some are totally ignorant.

To best position yourself to win EMV business whenever it comes, it behooves you to make the time and put effort into staying on top of all things EMV. Here are some tips to becoming a payments/EMV trusted advisor while we wait for specifics on EMV to arrive:

  • Be up to date on the EMV deadline. Will the deadline be pushed out? Stay the same? Have a solid answer for your customers.
  • Talk to your customers not just about EMV, but more holistically about payments security. While the EMV update will be a requirement, you can begin to soften the financial blow by explaining all the benefits to your customers.
  • Likewise, use EMV upgrades as an opportunity to offer your customers new capabilities like loyalty solutions.
  • Stay in constant contact with your ISV and payments partners about their EMV status. I’ve spoken to a handful of VARs who are considering making vendor changes if their current partners don’t take action.
  • Be wary of EMV-ready solutions. Fully research what “ready” really means.
  • Ask your customers to apprise you of any information they receive concerning EMV. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and you don’t want a shady competitor stealing your customers with lies.

While there might not be a wealth of specific EMV information out there today, that doesn’t mean your EMV focus should be placed on the back burner. As a disruptive technology, EMV will have huge implications on the industry. It might not be today or next month, but it’s coming without a doubt. Those VARs who put in the effort now will be rewarded when the time arrives.

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