By Bill Pirtle
C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc.
This morning I was perusing the Ford website for an F-150. Although I've never owned one and rarely need to haul more than a few cases of books, I've always wanted one. The base price is about $24,000. It's a decent price, but Ford allows you to build your own vehicle - from the color to the engine size to engineering specs like the rear axle ratio.
I selected the FX4 which is a four-wheel drive model with a super cab (four doors). I didn't select every option available, but I did choose some features I don't need right now, but that I might need later. When I was finished, the suggested retail price was almost $55,000.
So what happened? Customization. I don't want the base model; base sounds average. I want something designed to my own specifications. We commonly experience this desire for customization in the payments industry, too. Several times a year, I see someone ask in an industry forum about creating a customized customer relationship management (CRM) tool because programs like ACT! and Goldmine are not flexible enough to go through every step of merchant services from prospecting through ongoing customer support.
I spoke with Michelle Robinson, a database designer and owner of Office Productivity Consultants, about creating such a program. She said such a system would need to accommodate up to 100 users to support midsize ISOs and could cost at least $100,000 and as much as $250,000.
Industry solutions are available for far less than $100,000, but limitations exist on how these systems match individual ISO flow requirements. ISOs seeking solutions to fit their unique requirements will need to independently seek designers.
The issues and expenses of customization also pertain to a growing trend in the payments community: creating a customized solution for e-learning for ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) spread throughout the country.
I have found that the e-learning medium is one of four major forms used to impart knowledge; the others are books, classroom instruction and personal training (mentorship). Realizing that e-learning is now a desired method of training for a growing number of payment companies, I approached a number of e-learning experts to gather insights on what payment companies need to develop state-of-the-art e-learning programs.
I provided a thorough description of the content to be covered and received the following suggestions, the implementation of which would vary depending upon the level of ISO-specific customization desired:
Such a detailed and customized e-learning program can easily exceed $130,000. But there is good news for ISOs. Unlike customizing CRM tools, which typically involves creating a unique system for each company, 80 to 90 percent of the e-learning content would be applicable to all ISOs. So it is possible that a company (or group of companies) could finance the creation of a core project. The additional 10 to 20 percent comprising ISO-specific customization would deliver a private-label system wherein each ISO's content would have a unique look and reflect its own values and expectations.
This would still be expensive for smaller ISOs, but it is feasible. Is it the right solution for you? To clarify this, keep in mind the available training-delivery options, which are:
Now, ask the following questions:
The purpose of training is to boost the number of prospects your MLSs meet and increase your margin. It should also help make your agents recognized as valuable resources to help merchants' businesses, not simply as vendors who can sell only by lowering prices.
These questions will help you determine which delivery method(s) will work best for you and your MLSs. Many companies will use all four methods; some will decide upon one.
Your answers will point you toward the best course for you.
Bill Pirtle is the President of C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc. He created the book Credit Card Processing for Sales Agents and its accompanying study guide. He can be reached at 734-272-6177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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