As discussed in a previous blog post, bank product providers serve a vital function during tax season.
So how does today's tax preparer sort through the noise and find the right bank product provider for his/her business? Well, we've worked hard to assemble these top 10 questions to help you in your research. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read this post!
10. When was the last time you innovated?
Today's tax preparer is smart, tech-savvy, and demands a better toolset that enables him/her to grow their business in unique ways. The very best companies focus on continuous innovation to benefit customers, regardless of what the competition is doing. They are driven by being the best and offering the best, taking nothing for granted. Some of the newest innovations in the space include offering credit card processing, on-demand business reports, and personal loans to help clients move away from payday loans.
9. Do you have a mobile app?
Ever since the introduction of the smartphone, business owners and entrepreneurs are on-the-go as never before. Bank product providers are just getting started offering mobile apps to help tax preparers monitor their business while away from their office. Be sure to check out Apple's App Store and Google Play to check out the latest mobile apps for tax preparers.
8. What business reports does your platform offer?
Business reports allow tax preparers to track how many bank products they've processed, fees earned, and view the status of each client's tax return, just to name a few. This helps preparers stay better informed as to the health of their business, and give direction as to what areas deserve extra attention.
You should look for the ability to generate these reports in real-time and on-demand. Waiting until the end of the month to assess the health of your business, in today’s day and age, is simply not an option.
7. How easy is it to enroll?
Enrollment is typically a complex process involving hidden pricing, lengthy negotiations just to reach a fair price, and forms that must be manually filled out, signed, and exchanged via fax. In short, it's borderline medieval.
Modern-day providers will offer an automated sign-up process. With just a few key pieces of information about the owner and business, you can get enrolled in just 5 minutes or less.
6. Do your bank products work with my tax software?
Not all bank product providers are compatible with all tax software programs, so it's important to ask your bank product provider or tax software company. Their websites also typically show who they're partnered with, or you can discover which bank product providers are "integrated" with your tax software during your setup and installation process.
You should also be aware that some bank product providers offer a "non-integrated" option that works with your tax software. These have been well tested to ensure compatibility with your tax software, and sometimes even offer the added benefit of saving you and your clients money. Be sure to ask any bank product provider to clearly explain if and how they work with your tax software to ensure an uninterrupted tax season.
5. How secure and reliable is your platform?
The advance of the Internet and information technology has enabled many great things. But it has also brought cybersecurity and vigilance into sharp focus. If bad actors are able to infiltrate your tax software or bank product provider's platform, it puts your client's data and your business at risk. Any bank product provider should use bank-grade technologies that focus on security, risk management, and compliance of all participants on the platform. Strong filters track and adjust potential bad actors is critical.
Reliability is also important to avoiding any sort of business interruption. This means designing built-in redundancies and fail-safe mechanisms to the system.
4. What is your pricing, including all fees, etc?
One of the most important questions to ask also happens to be one of the most complex. But it really shouldn't be.
Many bank product providers pride themselves on making pricing a lot more confusing and murky than it needs to be. Ask about all the additional fees that are added to the "retail" price of your bank product. And who is being paid all of these fees? In too many instances, these fees are taken from the taxpayer and you, the tax preparer, and given to the bank product provider and tax software company.
Look for a bank product provider that has simple and transparent pricing so you know exactly how much you or your client will pay. And as you process during the season, be sure to check your monthly reports to make sure that what the activity and fees are what you expect. If it's not, it may be time to dispute a statement or find a new provider!
3. How will your products help me attract and serve new clients?
Every growing business is interested in increasing its customer base. So how great would it be if your bank product provider could help you attract and new customer segments?
There are different mechanisms to attract and serve new clients; for example, convenience, simplicity, and pricing to name a few. Some of the more innovative providers are starting to offer debit/credit card processing - something any business could benefit from - as well as trusted, more affordable personal loans. By diversifying your service offerings, you'll be able to capture a wider customer base, some of whom may ask you to help with their personal tax returns.
2. How will using your service help me improve client satisfaction?
One of the keys to a successful business is keeping your customers happy. Well, one of the best ways to keep taxpayers happy is to keep their bank product cost the same or less. It's quite a difference from what they're used to! So, in an industry where the norm is to increase bank product fees year after year, although there may be no associated increase in customer value, it's refreshing to come across a provider whose pricing is stable and consistent. Be sure to note if your provider is increasing their costs... if so, you should be careful that this doesn't turn away at least some of your customers.
Besides costs, it helps when providers actually care about your clients as much as you do. This will come in the form of educational and marketing materials to help you explain products and services to clients, a wide selection of checks to choose from that offer your clients low, flat fee check cashing at tens of thousands of bank branches and retail locations nationwide, and tools - like mobile banking apps - that help clients better manage and spend their money all year round.
1. Can you please provide some customer references?
Last, but not least, it would be foolish to do business with anyone where there isn’t complete honesty and trust. It may sound silly, but it’s worth checking customer references to ask them about their experiences with the bank product provider you’re considering. Is the provider honest and trustworthy? Did they execute according to pricing and what they said they would deliver? Has the pricing been stable and consistent; if not, how has the provider created additional value in the past 2-3 years? Does the provider truly care about the clients and how have they innovated?
This is perhaps the single, most important factor in choosing which bank product provider or partner to work with.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.