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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 14, 2011 • Issue 11:03:01

Stockholm Syndrome and the payment pro

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

From Aug. 23 to 28, 1973, bank robbers held employees of the Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, Sweden, hostage. When the hostages were finally released, most praised their captors and had become emotionally attached to them. Many even said their captors had done nothing wrong.

Nils Bejerot, a Swedish criminologist and psychiatrist, coined a phrase for this attachment: "Stockholm Syndrome." Today, the FBI reports that over 27 percent of victims suffer from this syndrome. Those who develop it share such symptoms as seeing their captors as giving life by not taking it, being isolated, seeing the world through their captors' eyes and seeing acts of kindness in their captors' actions. They have been stripped of their independence by captors who gained control over their basic needs.

A debilitating condition

Sadly, this syndrome isn't restricted to hostages. It is found in the payments world today. And salespeople are highly susceptible. Say you're new to the business. You seek a processing partner that will help you make money. During your discussions, the company seems to be a very good fit. It has a nice bonus plan and the pricing seems OK, so you sign the contract.

After the first couple of months you find you aren't being paid residuals. Why? Because the contract requires they exceed a certain level before you are paid. You also discover you signed an exclusive agreement, and production minimums must be met to retain your residuals going forward. The company also charges merchants additional fees that you've learned, based on conversations with your peers, other processors don't charge.

Instead of addressing these concerns, those suffering from Stockholm Syndrome make comments such as, "I should have read my agreement better, but it's OK," or "All the other processors are doing the same thing. My processor is no different."

The treatment plan

However, salespeople suffering from this syndrome can take the following steps toward professional freedom:

  1. Treat bad relationships as lessons learned: We have all learned lessons in the payments business. If a contract isn't what you expected, it's another lesson learned. You now know from experience that you must thoroughly read and understand your partner agreements and confirm your rights - as well as your partners' rights - in the agreement.

  2. Expect great customer service: Compare how you serve your merchants with the service you receive from your partner. Service is critical after the sale, as your merchants are your best source of referrals for new business. Ask yourself how your merchants would feel if you served them in the same way your ISO serves you.

  3. Think long term: Think about where you want to be five years from now. Measure your current and future ISO partnerships against this goal. If these partnerships won't assist you in reaching that goal, they're likely not a good fit.

  4. Think short term: What short-term needs are overriding long-term considerations? If given too much priority, short-term needs can negatively impact long-term goals. Don't let this happen. Recognize short-term needs as they arise and work with partners that will meet them most efficiently. Make sure your partners understand the importance of your long-term goals.

  5. Remember, it's a partnership: Do you consider yourself a partner with your ISO or processor? A partnership works to not only build your business, but your partner's business as well. Partners look out for each other's interests as they do their own because they know the interests of both are meshed. Partners do not charge merchants fees for the purpose of generating revenue exclusively for themselves, cutting their partners out.

  6. Never assume: The most dangerous word in the English language is "assume." Remember Ronald Reagan's famous quote: "Trust, but verify"? If your partner or prospective partner says something that should be part of your agreement, confirm that it's written as you understand it. A good partner will address such concerns so they don't become major issues in the future.

  7. Be willing to fess up to bad decisions: Ask yourself whether you are accepting less than you should from your ISO or processor. Be honest. If you are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, you may have accepted that the way business works with your current processor is the way it will be elsewhere. That may not be the case.

After addressing all seven steps, examine your current business relationships. What needs to change for them to fit you better? Will your processor change, and under what conditions? These questions are necessary because, for example, your processor may be able to make adjustments to your relationship or address contractual concerns. If your partner does agree to changes, remember to have them verified in writing.

If it is necessary to seek other partnerships, consider what I've just said, and be sure to verify everything. Don't look back and think of what might have been. Use the lessons you have learned, and move on to find the perfect fit. Once freed, you will find a very bright future. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

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