The Green Sheet Online Edition
January 21, 2009 • Issue 09:01:02
Your merchant is calling
Here's a disturbing scenario: As a potential customer, you're treated like royalty. You're wined and dined and told there is no such thing as a stupid question. You shake hands and sign some paperwork. Then a few days later you call to clarify something. Your agent, who no longer remembers you, refers you to a toll free help-desk number.
In our industry, this happens every day. If we were selling appliances, we might be able to get away with this kind of attitude and behavior. But we are selling merchant services.
When your business is service, every communication is part of your customer's experience. Every time our customers reach out to us, for any reason, it's one more chance to show them how much we care.
The more we improve the quality of their experience, the less receptive they will be to the next competitor who offers them a better deal or vows to treat them with more respect.
The challenge of balancing sales and service is a dilemma faced by many of today's businesses. Its the classic problem of getting results versus building infrastructure. Most organizations need to build infrastructure to get results, and they need to get results to continue building sustainable infrastructure.
The same rules apply to ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs). How do we continue to build our portfolios while keeping existing customers happy? Here are some strategies used by some of our industry's most successful ISOs and MLSs.
In the world of sales, there is nothing more critical than detailed and punctual follow-up. Every time you meet with existing or prospective clients, there are usually a few items that need to be addressed after the meeting.
Why bother to take notes at a meeting if you never look at them again? Too many of us nod in agreement with customers and never follow up on their requests. The best way to demonstrate the reliability of your service, and your personal interest in a client, is to be actively engaged in researching and following up on all of your "take-aways."
Effective MLSs will routinely under-promise and over-deliver to their customers. They clearly communicate their company's process flow to new merchants to give them a realistic idea of when to expect equipment delivery, a Merchant Identification Number, online reporting access and automated clearing house deposits.
The best agents leave nothing to chance. They affix help-desk and supply order numbers to terminals. They advise customers to notify risk management before processing ticket transactions that are unusually high. They provide contact numbers for banking and technical issues.
Demonstrate technical knowledge
The best way to bond with your merchants is to have first-hand knowledge of their processing systems. Whether your merchants use traditional countertop terminals, wireless devices that depend on Wi-Fi or cellular networks, or virtual terminals that process sales on the Internet, superior sales agents run test transactions on every solution they sell.
They study each new enhancement and system that is introduced into their sales and partner channels.
We are in the business of selling electronic transaction technology; a basic understanding of how these systems operate is essential. Product knowledge proficiency will help establish credibility and trust with merchants.
Good MLSs react quickly to their customers' needs. Great MLSs anticipate their customers' needs. Routinely update your customers on changes taking place within your company and in the payments industry.
With all the mergers and acquisitions going on, it's not unusual for a company to sell or acquire a merchant portfolio. When this happens to your company, reach out to your customers right away to prepare them for any changes in branding or procedure.
Let them know you want their transition to be smooth. Encourage them to call you if they are unable to connect with anyone in technical support or customer service.
Keep abreast of changes
Technology is always changing; keep merchants in the loop on new developments that will increase processing speed and efficiency. If you don't make them aware of new options, your competitors will. A simple e-mail, Web site banner or flyer inserted into a merchant statement can increase awareness of new products or services.
Interchange is always of concern to merchants. Not all interchange updates from the card brands trickle down to their level. Take a proactive approach to educating merchants on rate increases and new interchange categories. Preparing merchants for these changes will help decrease customer service calls and increase your value as a trusted partner.
Security is another crucial, constantly changing aspect of our business. Updates to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard need to be communicated throughout your channel to ensure all merchants are using compliant hardware and software to process transactions.
Failure to comply with these guidelines could result in costly fines, increased vulnerability to fraudulent transactions and loss of the ability to accept credit cards. Your knowledge and expertise on this subject can increase your value as a specialist and trusted partner and lead to more referrals.
React quickly to leads
React immediately when you receive a lead. A lead is a vote of confidence in your ability to deliver a timely solution to a customer.
There's no greater expression of customer satisfaction than when one of your merchants refers you to another business. As you grow your merchant portfolio, your merchants will refer you to their friends, relatives and even competitors. They want you to do well so that you can continue to provide great service.
One of the best ways to thank your merchants for their referrals and continuing business is to purchase their goods or services. They will be delighted when you shop at their stores, eat at their restaurants and stay at their hotels. It will be their turn to roll out the red carpet and welcome you to their extended family of customers.
Dale S. Laszig has a varied background in sales for First Data Corp., Hypercom Corp. and VeriFone. Her dedication to technology, writing and graphic design led to the formation of DSL Direct LLC, a marketing services company geared toward payment professionals. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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