By Jeff Fortney
I recently had a conversation with a merchant level salesperson (MLS) regarding a merchant who had left them. The agent was very upset, as the merchant had been with them for over four years.
The MLS said,"Someone called and asked them if they had heard about the mandatory EMV conversion. When they said they hadn't, the caller said, 'Well your agent should have told you how important this is. You need to change your terminal, and the sooner the better. It's for your own good.' Sure enough, that fear got them into a contract with someone else."
Needless to say, he was very upset with the competitor's approach, and more so for the loss of the merchant.
Lately, I believe, we have all had conversations like this. It seems the sales approach du jour is to push Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) terminals. On message boards and at tradeshows, invariably the conversation comes up about this or that telemarketing firm calling merchants about a mandatory terminal change, or even claiming that they are the merchant's processor and that the merchant has to change now or "take a risk of much higher chargebacks and fraud."
The conversation ultimately drifts to a discussion of the ethicality or even the legality of these approaches. It is not my goal here to discuss or even state an opinion in either of these areas, but the fact remains that these approaches are occurring every day.
I have even had MLSs ask me how they can structure a script that would sell using EMV terminal conversion as a lead in. (My response to such an inquiry is usually very short, and centers more around sharing information. But that is a topic for another time.) Yes, it has become that common in the marketplace.
Losing merchants to this approach should not happen, but as can be seen, it does happen regularly. During the recent conversation I just described, it became obvious to me that the fault of the loss doesn't necessarily fall on the sales rep pitching EMV. In fact, a merchant loss is rarely the result of a sales pitch. In the majority of those cases in which a merchant changes processors, cost is not the primary reason why the merchant chose to move either. It has more to do with a lack of attention.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You spend a minimum of two hours during the sales process completing the application. During that time, you try to build rapport and a connection, and there is a positive feeling among both parties.
Following approval, your next visit is to program the merchant's terminal (or work with the programmer of the POS system.) You continue your bonding efforts, and advise the merchant that should they ever have a question, concern, or even some competitor that talks to them, they should call you.
At that point, unless there is a concern or you happen to be in the neighborhood, your relationship becomes a distant one with little to no contact. They promised to contact you with issues, and you were good friends when you finished, right?
It's the point where assumptions being made lead to a merchant at risk. We like to think that a merchant would consider payment processing a vital part of his or her business. However, as we have all come to know, once terminals are running and merchants are getting paid, they all tend to forget the people and procedures involved with setting up their payment processing – until something goes wrong, or someone brings it to their attention. That someone is your competition.
Until you take steps to stay visible after the download, the above scenario will repeat itself, and attrition will continue. However, there are three tools you can use that take little time, but will keep your merchants aware and informed.
Often during the application process, a merchant is asked for his or her web address. In today's electronic society, start asking your merchants if they have Facebook pages, Twitter handles or even Instagram sites. Then, immediately after the download, friend, like or follow each page.
In turn, watch for posts (this is easily done with today's smartphones) and respond to them. Like their pictures, comment on a post or two, and above all else, remember their birthdays.
If you and your company do not have Facebook pages, set them up. Encourage your merchant customers to friend your page as well. Start posting information on your site that is valuable to your merchants, like information on the EMV rollout, or timing of other events that can impact them. By "friending" you, they will see these posts.
You should contact your merchants monthly via email – at a minimum. It can be a newsletter-style message, or even just a conversation about the industry, the marketplace or general information they may find useful.
In addition to these emails, you should send out alerts about topics like EMV, or about sales tactics that are happening that seem questionable. Above all, keep them informed as industry events unfold. If possible, be the first to pass on important payment news; don't be the one responding to what others have said about these topics.
You need to make an appearance, but (as all will agree) as you grow your portfolio, the time for intentional calls on existing merchants gets squeezed. However, there are ways to be visible.
When you drive by a merchant, take five minutes to drop in and just say hello and ask how it's going for them. Five minutes is all you will need. If you happen to be in the same shopping center or general area making a sales or service call, you can also stick your head in to the store of an existing merchant client. Above all, merchants need to know that you are their partner for payment processing.
No matter what you do, the time spent on these three steps will be minimal compared to the loss of a merchant that will leave you asking, "What happened?"
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at email@example.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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