By Steve Norell
US Merchant Services Inc.
As many of you are aware, the Electronic Transactions Association developed the Certified Payments Professional (CPP) program to advance the credibility and professionalism of merchant level salespeople (MLSs) and ISOs in today's ever changing market.
The CPP program essentially is a test-based certificate program. The test consists of 125 questions covering several areas of the payments industry, including technical subjects, ethics and basic knowledge. More weight is given to certain categories than others, but in general it is an all encompassing group of questions. If you pass, you receive a certificate, and your name is listed on the ETA website under the CPP Registry.
After having taken and passed the test (whew!), I can say it was harder than I thought it would be. Following are some further observations.
The first thing to capture my attention was the lack of study materials - no book, no notes, no nothing. I wasn't that nervous since I have been in this industry for over 15 years and, as many who know me are aware, I think I know everything. (My wife knows better; she thinks I don't even know how to use our dishwasher correctly.)
Since I am an ETA member, I registered for the test at the ETA website, www.electran.org, and paid $325 versus the $425 fee for nonmembers. In my opinion, it is a fair price. I was able to pick a testing site very close to where I live. I received notification that my requested site was accepted, and the date and time were set. (Not to be redundant, but no study guide was offered at this point either.)
So, the big date arrived. As I drove to my test site, two thoughts were running through my mind:
Once I arrived at the site, I was directed to a private room with a computer where a moderator provided instructions on taking the test. The moderator also verified my identity.
The first thing I noticed, and was a bit disappointed by, was that when I looked around to see how many others were taking the test, the only person there was me. So much for competition. Soon, the bell went off, and away I went, answering the questions, which were multiple choice; there was only one correct answer per question.
I finished the test in approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, signed out and headed back to the office. Everyone wanted to know how I did and, to tell you the truth, I had no idea.
Almost two months later, I received my results and, hooray, I passed. So now I have a wallet card, a certificate and listing on the ETA website. As a bonus, and with no input from me, on the site's list of CPP certified MLSs and ISOs in Florida, I am listed right at the top. I must have done something right.
So after taking this test and hoping it is the right move to add some type of certification and credibility to our industry, here is what I think is good and not so good about the CPP exam. The good things are:
The not so good things are:
The ETA stated in the requirements that you need a minimum of one year of industry experience to take the test. I wholeheartedly agree, but as I just stated and based on some of the questions, I doubt that without a study guide there is much chance a person with only 12 months' industry experience could pass this test.
So here is my recommendation to the ETA when it comes to tweaking the test. It is a simple one: issue a notebook with 500 questions along with the correct answers. Let the test taker study this until it is time to take the test, knowing that only 125 comparable questions will be asked.
Having to study 500 questions will allow the individual to gain more knowledge than the test actually covers.
The only thing that will make this program a success is if it has real perceived value, which means, as a CPP, I have an advantage over competitors who are not CPP certified. And to do that, we need to have retail and industry associations endorse the program. Something along the lines of notifying members to only do business with CPP members.
Well, that is my take on the test. I do encourage others to take it the next time around. By then, hopefully, there will be a study guide.
Steve Norell is Director of Sales at US Merchant Services Inc. Based in Port St. Lucie, Fla., he oversees the USMS sales force and maintains the company's bank and processor relationships. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or by phone at 772-220-7515.
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