Speed: The Most Important Aspect of the Customer Approval Process


October 8, 2019

Anyone who has opened a merchant bank account can attest that the client approval process is slow and complex. As margins decrease and merchant attrition increases, bank executives responsible for customer experience are searching for ways to remain competitive. Their goal? To understand the problem and find a solution.

Current reports, fintech professionals, and industry experts point to the solution again and again. Modern technology has enabled new business processes to automate client approval and shorten application time with one standardized process that uses intelligent forms, automated underwriting, and automated data collection capabilities.

Understanding the problem of slow customer approval and how to put all these puzzle pieces together, however, can be challenging and requires an understanding of the customer’s needs and expectations.

What do merchants want, and why do they leave?

Merchants sign up for a merchant account because they need the services the bank provides, and they need those services as quickly as possible. Slow client approval can disrupt a merchant’s normal operation and leave a negative first impression on your customers. There is a real risk of losing customers within the first few weeks or months after an account is opened; especially if your sales team sets expectations that are not fulfilled.

Too often companies are opaque in their messaging, leading to miscommunication in the services that they offer. For example, some merchant acquirers claim to be processors, processors claim to do everything a customer needs, or customers end up finding themselves with poorly-handled chargebacks.

Most merchants that open new accounts with an acquirer are switching services from another acquirer. The national attrition rate is currently between 12% and 15%. Merchants leave their current acquirers because they have been convinced that switching will improve their business by saving money, decreasing risk, and providing a higher return on capital.

Switching merchant acquirers, however, can immediately cause a sense of dread for merchants. A clunky client approval experience can lead to uncertainty and anxiety about future business with their new merchant acquirer.

The shorter and more comfortable the transition period, the better. A fast and efficient client approval process instills confidence in the customer, which results in an excellent customer experience, and allows them to use the bank’s services more quickly, which results in faster time to revenue.

Why is speed so important?

Today’s merchants and businesses use the internet to determine what to expect from banks. They use specific websites that compare features and pricing before even speaking with a salesperson, providing a greater understanding and awareness of fees, rates, and competitors’ offerings. Their research on new players, such as Payment Facilitators (PayFacs), and the current state of technology, in general, has conditioned them to expect faster experiences.

In an effort to match new customer expectations established by disruptors like Square, a global powerhouse like Global Payments adopted Agreement Express to reduce client approval time from 2-13 weeks to 30 minutes. With Agreement Express, Global Payments was able to reduce its client approval times from 120 minutes to 5 minutes.

A fast client approval process creates a positive first impression and will increase the chance of your customer choosing you over the alternative, especially if the alternative is much more difficult to apply for.

Failure to meet customer expectations are two-fold:

1) You’re not keeping up with the competition. It means you’re still using traditional, manual, labor-intensive client approval processes that pose scalability issues. Customers are no longer willing to wait weeks for application approvals.

2) Customers won’t bother. Frustrated customers during the application process risk increased application drop-out rates. Prior to improving operational processes, Global Payments had a 40% return rate in applications, while another large payments firm faced a 25% return rate. With Agreement Express, Global Payments experienced a 100% application return rate.

Ultimately, banks that do not meet customer expectations will risk losing prospective customers who value a fast, smooth approval experience.


Speed is critical in reducing customer uncertainty and managing expectations. With technological advancements, we are able to deliver an automated customer approval solution and measure the gains it offers. According to Forrester, price is the reigning incentive that merchant banks offer to their customers in an effort to reduce merchant attrition. An automated customer approval platform can help reduce cost per application, increase underwriting speed, and ultimately allow for better price incentives and customer experience without sacrificing margins.

Changing your customer approval process can be risky, but not if you employ an automated approval platform tailored specifically for your needs. With faster times to revenue and lowered administrative costs, you can realize dollar gains with an automated client approval system.