By J. David Siembieda
Long-term business relationships are forged on excellent customer service, which is all about meeting the needs and wants of your customers. As ISOs or merchant level salespeople, the actions you take after you close deals will determine the longevity of your merchant relationships. It's not enough just to have a great product or service anymore.
Customer service should be your top priority. The reason is simple: If your merchants experience shoddy service from any of your vendors, it reflects poorly on you. And it can cause irreparable damage to your reputation _ even if you're not directly involved.
That's why it's important to work with companies that support their products and services with quality customer service. So, shop around before you sign a contract with a bankcard or check guarantee provider.
Mind your vendors
Do telephone interviews with the customer service departments of several companies of interest to you as potential partners. Start by asking basic questions about their offerings. Then move on to more complex questions. Find out how they deal with the most common issues facing their merchants.
If a vendor doesn't have standard policies and procedures for handling a range of merchant issues, don't do business with that vendor.
During the interview, pay attention to details. Is the customer service representative friendly and courteous when answering your questions? Does the rep know the company's products well enough to troubleshoot and offer several options for resolving issues quickly? What is the firm's average response time?
Ask if the vendor offers comprehensive training for all customer service personnel. Find out whether they receive training updates when their company introduces new products or services. If having 24/7 customer service available to your merchants is an important feature, seek companies that offer around-the-clock service.
Another way to monitor customer service is to check in periodically with your most valuable merchants. Poll them on the quality of service they receive from each of your vendors. If they're unhappy with a particular vendor, find out what areas are problematic.
It's critical to know whether a service or product itself is performing up to the standards your merchants expect, or if a problem is due to an ongoing customer service issue.
If you determine certain equipment or services are inadequate, conduct research so you can offer better solutions. If, however, your merchants are receiving inferior customer service, call the offending vendor immediately, and ask to speak with a customer service manager.
Explain the problem, and let the manager know that if it persists, you may take your merchant transaction business elsewhere. Ask the vendor to outline a reasonable solution and commit to correcting the problem within a specified amount of time.
Follow up later with both the vendor and merchant to verify that the issue has been resolved in a timely manner. If the vendor fails to rectify the problem and you feel the issue is important to your merchant base, look for another vendor.
Inform your top merchants of your plans, and notify them as soon as you find a suitable replacement to match their overall transaction needs.
Rise to the challenge
View merchant complaints as an opportunity to improve. Legitimate beefs are a clear signal that the status quo is not working.
If your primary merchants have unresolved customer service issues with a particular vendor, your other clients may also be experiencing similar problems.
Typically, only 4% of disgruntled customers report their concerns to the companies at fault. That leaves a silent majority of 96% retreating to take business elsewhere. Of that group, 91% will never do business with the offending company again.
In addition, the average dissatisfied customer tells eight people about a negative experience. This detrimental word of mouth could devastate your business.
Of course, it's not possible to address every single issue that may arise. But if you stay in touch with your key merchants, you'll be in a better position to spot trends before they become major problems that can spiral out of control.
Keep your customers satisfied; you'll be more successful.
As a sales professional, you are obliged to ensure that your merchant clients receive top-notch products and services, matched by outstanding day-to-day customer service to back them up at every turn.
J. David Siembieda has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of CrossCheck Inc., a national check approval and guarantee provider, for over five years. He has more than 15 years of experience in the check services field. He serves on the board of directors for the Electronic Transactions Association and the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. He is the Chairman of the ETA's Membership Committee and is also a member of NACHA's Electronic Check Council. CrossCheck has been at the forefront of check authorization services and technology since its inception in 1983. For more information on marketing check services and CrossCheck, please call 800-654-2365 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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