A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a codified set of step-by-step instructions designed to demonstrate to workers how tasks or workflows are performed. They take a high-level process and break it down into clear and concise steps, ensuring that repetitive tasks are performed the same way by all employees every time they occur. 

SOPs are common in large organizations like government agencies and multinational corporations, where standardization of processes across dispersed teams is necessary to keep the machine running with as few snags as possible. But SOPs have a lot to offer organizations of all sizes, and even the smallest start-ups can benefit from codifying processes. In the case of your ISO, your team’s use of IRIS CRM represents an ideal target for SOPs since the platform’s functionality is so far-reaching across your entire organization.


Why are SOPs so Important?

The primary benefits of SOPs are their ability to significantly reduce mistakes, ensure process completion, and minimize training requirements. Because SOPs outline important processes in a step-by-step format, they effectively act as hedges against human variance and error. Any time a process is complex and has strict requirements for success, that extra insurance can’t be overvalued. 

In a manufacturing environment, SOPs ensure quality control and production efficiency can be maintained in operations with razor-thin profit margins, where any hiccup has the potential to cause major financial damage. In the military, SOPs ensure units operate with maximum safety, efficiency, and effectiveness in an environment where failing to do so could result in significant human consequences. In an ISO, SOPs ensure that your key processes, like merchant acquisition and residual management, are performed accurately while minimizing the amount of time and resources involved. That’s crucial, especially with tasks like boarding where even a single error has the potential to undercut your margins or trigger a rejection. 

SOPs also ensure that your ISO’s staff can perform the more mechanical functions of their jobs from day one, even without any prior experience. SOPs aren’t a replacement for initial training, but they do provide a rock-solid reference that new and old employees alike can lean on whenever the details of a process slip their mind. That codified backup eliminates the need for remedial training and reduces the strain on senior staff and managers. 


What CRM Activities Need SOPs?

The beauty of IRIS CRM is that the features are all extremely intuitive to use and backed up by a wealth of documentation in the IRIS CRM Knowledge Base. With that in mind, SOPs aren’t really necessary for specific CRM functions, but are instead useful to describe your larger processes that pass through the CRM. 

For example, when one of your agents signs a new merchant, what needs to happen before that merchant can start earning your ISO residuals? At a minimum, you’ll need them to sign a merchant processing agreement, and that MPA will need to be loaded into TurboApp so that the merchant can be boarded to their new payment processor. You might also be reselling value-added services like gateway systems, in which case the merchant would need to be boarded to those as well. 

IRIS CRM provides tools designed to make each of those processes as fast and easy as possible. Your team members will still need to know what they have to do whenever a new merchant signs on, and that’s where an SOP is an ideal tool. A brand new member of your team, or even a person off the street with no relevant experience, should be able to reference your merchant acquisition SOP and see, step-by-step, exactly how to send the new merchant their digital MPA, how to import that MPA into TurboApp, how to complete the TurboApp boarding process, how to use the MPA data to initiate gateway onboarding, etc. 

You can create SOPs for all of your most important and most common processes. For example, a residuals calculation and payout SOP could be created to ensure even a brand new member of your management team can quickly and accurately pull up and payout your agents’ monthly splits, even if they’ve never used IRIS CRM before. Any task your ISO’s staff performs on a regular basis is an ideal candidate for an SOP. Even simple tasks like the standard procedure for what to do with new inbound leads can be codified with little effort. The result is that your ISO will see organization-wide improvement in the efficient use of your CRM, and the CRM will, in turn, provide you with the optimum value possible. 


What Goes Into a Great SOP?

SOPs can be as complex or as high-level as you want, but it’s important to remember that the point is to outline a process in enough detail that a brand-new user can complete it successfully with no prior experience. That makes erring on the side of more detail better, as creating an overly-generic SOP is effectively a waste of effort. 

With that in mind, there are certain questions all SOPs should answer, and the easiest way to start is to ensure your new SOPs cover the 5 W’s (and one H!) – what, why, who, when, where, and how. 

What: What is the task being outlined? Your SOP should always include a high-level overview describing what the task is and the desired outcome. As the reader moves through the steps, they’ll always have the big-picture context necessary to understand what they’re doing. 

Why: A good SOP should always tell the reader both why they’re performing the task at hand and why it’s important that they follow the SOP as closely as possible. Without the “why,” you risk people deciding that the SOP isn’t important and choosing to instead wing their way through the process – a recipe for errors. 

Who: The SOP should make it very clear who is responsible for performing the task, and equally importantly, who should not be performing the task. If your entire organization has access to your SOP folder – a standard practice – any member of your team can access the instructions for effectively all of your tasks. Your CRM permissions should limit access where necessary, but ensuring your team understands which processes they are and are not authorized to perform is important. 

When and Where: Your SOPs should clearly inform the reader what conditions trigger the task. For instance, an SOP covering gateway onboarding should make it clear to the reader that the process should only be launched when the sales team informs your boarding team that gateway add-ons have been requested by the merchant. Running the gateway boarding process outside of those conditions will waste time at the very least, and potentially result in incorrect billing or potential costs if gateway services are added to an account erroneously.

How: Finally, the SOP should lay out step-by-step, in as much detail as necessary, how a task is to be completed. Greater detail makes for a longer SOP, but that’s OK if it means the process will be done right. When reviewing your new SOPs, look for any points in the process instructions where a total beginner might ask “why?” or “how?” That’s a clear indicator more detail is needed. 


Answering these six questions will ensure that every member of your staff will have the information they need to accurately and consistently apply IRIS CRM’s features to your ISO’s most important processes. From merchant acquisition to boarding, to service and support delivery, to administration, to residuals management and beyond, IRIS CRM has the tools your ISO needs to outperform the competition, operate more profitably, and maximize growth. A strong set of SOPs will ensure your staff can utilize those tools as effectively and efficiently as possible, maximizing their impact and your ROI. 

If your ISO isn’t yet putting IRIS CRM’s sales and productivity features to work, schedule your free guided demonstration today to see firsthand how the payments industry’s top customer resource management platform can revolutionize your operations. Click here to set up a one-on-one demo now.