A step-by-step guide for a collaborative PCI compliance programme


While the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has long been a critical consideration for merchants, many businesses are still failing to make the fulfillment of these requirements a top priority.


Whether a merchant is apathetic, deems these regulations too costly or difficult to adhere to, or simply doesn’t know where to begin, acquiring organisations have an immense opportunity to help in these compliance initiatives.


By properly informing, engaging and equipping merchants through the following measures, banks and acquirers can reduce business risk while also minimising burdens or misunderstandings associated with the process.



One of the major issues hindering PCI compliance success is that many merchants lack awareness of the issues at hand. The Electronic Transaction Association (ETA) explained that the merchant’s role is to always be cognisant of data security threats and to validate their compliance on a regular basis.


However, Green Sheet revealed that many merchants, especially those that don’t handle high volumes of transactions, do not fully understand or even attempt to comprehend these standards. Still, small businesses are a major target.


Therefore, it’s imperative that acquirers motivate merchants to improve their involvement in PCI efforts by consistently informing them about the importance of taking action through a variety of channels, such as direct mail, the organisation’s website or dedicated PCI portal and outbound calls.


This improves the likelihood that merchants not only become more in tune with their responsibilities regarding compliance, but also gain trust that the acquiring organisation can provide adequate guidance in these programs.


Moreover, it’s crucial to ensure a strong internal understanding of best practices and requirements, as a lack of awareness among the acquiring organisation’s customer support team can greatly hinder the effectiveness of compliance programs and pose a threat to merchant’ trust.



Very often, an incident that leads to a lost merchant relationship could have been avoided with better communication. While it is critical for sales professionals to be well-trained in communicating the critical nature of PCI compliance, these messages should be sent beyond the onboarding process. An ongoing dialogue can ensure that data security is always prevalent on the merchant’s mind. 


Providing a dedicated PCI customer support helpdesk is an ideal way to ensure the merchant has access to a fully trained team who not only deal with incoming customer queries but can also be proactive in contacting groups of merchants who are experiencing similar difficulties or issues.


The ETA also advised keeping communications simple. Too many words on a page or too many technical details can overwhelm the merchant. Clearly spelling out what is required of them, in multiple ways, can reinforce their collaboration in these efforts.


There are many ways to communicate with merchants and the method chosen should be that which best suits the merchant, be it by letter, email, SMS or on-line chat facilities.



Without complete collaboration on these efforts, acquiring organisations might find it difficult to provide a consistent experience for merchants. The ETA explained that it’s imperative to have an organisation-wide commitment to, comprehension of and support for the compliance program.


Acquirers with organisationally-supported PCI programs often achieve higher compliance rates as well, and merchants in their portfolio typically suffer fewer breaches. If an organization’s actions do not fully support a program’s goals from the top down, it is likely that compliance efforts will not be successful.



It’s crucial that merchants view the PCI process as an ongoing effort. The ETA asserted that some common vulnerabilities include outdated Point of Sale (POS) systems, the unnecessary storage of payment card data, missing firewalls and anti-virus software or inadequate passwords.


By consistently communicating with and educating merchants, acquirers can guide them through the continual journey of maintaining compliance.


Merchants often tend to migrate toward the most simplified solutions, which often don’t provide adequate security. Therefore, traditional acquirers will need to provide adequate value-added technologies that allow the merchant to focus more directly on the business.


More importantly, the acquirer will need to present these solutions in such a way that the merchant can grasp the advantages in respect to the overall compliance process. This legitimises any PCI-related costs and fees, fueling customer trust and satisfaction.



Merchants need personalised support services to lead them through the complicated PCI process. First, acquirers need to offer security services that not only reduce their scope of compliance and simplify the validating processes, but also present tangible value.

Once initial support needs have been met and the acquirer has engaged the merchant in their initial validation scans, it’s imperative to deliver automated services, such as emails announcing upcoming dates for scans and re-validation. Moreover, the ETA was adamant that customer service should proactively reach out to merchants, especially those that are most critical to the company.


These measures help set up a healthy relationship between acquirers and merchants. Empowering the merchant to take positive action and guiding them through every step, builds loyalty, reduces churn and boosts the acquiring organisation’s bottom line.


Sysnet Global Solutions offer a fully white-labeled, compliance management solution, a tailored communications program and a dedicated customer helpdesk that ensure merchants are guided through the compliance process as quickly and easily as possible.


For more information please visit sysnet.air or email sales@sysnetglobalsolutions.com


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