The Green Sheet Online Edition
May 13, 2013 • Issue 13:05:01
Training customized for you
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.
A demand for e-learning
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:
- Use of an instructional design expert to ensure that the course presents the material in the most intuitive, fluid manner to optimize learning experience and retention
- A special system for storing, hosting and delivery of the product
- Up to 15 hours of running time for the material
- Up to 60 individual modules of content
- Self-check questions within each module
- An overall exam with passing options dictated by each ISO's respective standards
- Professional voice-over narration
- Twelve to 16 weeks of expert design
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.
A way to evaluate training options
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:
- Book training, which consists of any written resource created within or outside of your company.
- Classroom instruction, which might include a training course administered by an internal trainer or a hired consultant either at your headquarters or at regional sites accessible by your national sales force.
- Personal training, which would be individual meetings, follow-up sessions or conference calls made either by an internal or external source of your selection.
- E-learning, which could comprise either an entire course or select modules made available to agents using either a hosted site or a private Intranet.
Now, ask the following questions:
- What is the most cost effective method of delivery for my company?
- What option(s) will benefit my agents the most?
- Will I employ different methods depending on whether my MLSs are employees or independent contractors?
- Who will pay for this training, and will payment be upfront or ongoing?
- How difficult or expensive will it be to alter the training method as the industry, market demands, laws or technologies change?
- How quickly can new solutions be added into the training delivery method?
- Can several or all methods be combined to cover all of my needs?
- How much personal interaction do I need between my MLSs and support staff to create the best return on investment and retention?
- Should I do the training internally or bring in outside assistance?
- How much control in the training process do I want to have?
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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