Emergency backup plan makes for smoother ride

John Mayleben, CPP, is a consultant to Michigan Retailers Association and is MRA’s retired senior vice president technology and new product development. He is a national expert on electronic payment processing and was the first person in Michigan and among the first in the nation to receive the Certified Payments Professional (CPP) designation from the national Electronic Transactions Association.

As much as we would like it to be, life is never a smooth ride. There always will be stretches of potholes in the form of times that disrupt business.

While traveling in the southeastern U.S. recently, the Hurricane Evacuation Route road signs provided me with a graphic reminder of the need to always have a backup plan for business operations.

While we don’t expect a named storm to come off Lake Michigan on a hot summer day and wreak havoc, there are many other things that might go bump in the night and disrupt our ability to conduct business as usual.

Have you considered what would happen to your business model if your credit card system suddenly went down? Depending on your business type and location, it could be either a modest inconvenience or a major hit to the bottom line.

Any system that is “mission critical” to your business and its continued growth or survival must have a backup plan.

First Question
Take a minute to step back from the day-to-day operations of your business and consider what you and your staff would do if your credit card terminal or POS system were to stop working.

In this situation, the obvious first question to ask is, “do I need to take credit cards today to make sales today?”

In some business models, the inability to take cards today would not impact the business significantly. That’s because either the business doesn’t take a lot of cards or it knows its customers really well and can bill them (think doctor or dentist office).

In that case, the level of urgency within your overall backup plan is small. But if you are like most retail businesses – you don’t know all of your customers and you have more than 50 percent of your transactions flowing through various card networks – you will need a plan.

In the early days of credit cards, all you needed to complete the sale was an imprinter (a.k.a. “knuckle buster”) and carbon slips. That may be all you need to figure out today’s backup plan!

It would be wise to keep an imprinter and sales slips in the emergency box and train your staff on how to handle that type of situation.

Backup Device
In more and more cases, however, the business model will not support a manual imprinter and sales drafts because of the need for speedy transactions amid the sheer volume of transactions done each day.

In those situations, it’s wise to consider having a backup device stored in the office, ready to go in an instant.

Whatever the solution that works for your business, you need to make sure that you aren’t the only one in your business who knows and understands how to execute the backup plan.

There are times during the normal business calendar that you are out of the office and can’t be reached. That’s why it makes sense, emergency or not, to empower someone in your business to understand and react to a “system down” event.

A backup plan is somewhat like fire and theft insurance. You hope that you never have to use it, but it’s a lifesaver when you do.

It’s also true that if you suddenly need one, it’s too late to get one.

What’s your plan?

If you have questions about backup plans or need backup equipment, simply contact our customer service team at 800.563.5981, option 2.