By Steve Norell
US Merchant Services Inc.
An interesting thing happened to me last week, which compelled me to not just measure how I do things, but to also share it with others. So, here's what happened. One of our agents brought a prospective merchant to our attention. It was clear that he would need help with it since he was relatively new to the industry, and it was one of those rare merchant opportunities that shows up only once a year at best.
The merchant is doing $10 million a year in credit card transactions selling nothing complicated or risky, but how the merchant does it is the catch. The retailer's sales reps go to events all over the country and have anywhere from 20 to 100 booths accepting credit cards. In most cases, at least four terminals are placed at each station. Even though the business is based in Florida, the salespeople drive a caravan of trucks to each event regardless of where the events are located.
So, the issue was that the merchant wanted to have terminals connected to the Internet, as well as wireless terminals as backups. A solution involving mobile payments using an app was not going to make this merchant happy.
After going through all the options and determining what we could do for them, the deal was consummated. It should be noted that price was not the number one topic. As a matter of fact, it was the lowest-priority issue discussed. Our talks were all about technology as it pertains to communication. For the record, we provided a product that we started to offer our merchants after making key connections at the Southeast Acquirers Association's annual meeting two years ago.
The end result is that we sold the business close to 75 terminals, Internet hot boxes and a fair rate on the processing that will be more than profitable over the long haul.
Now, here is where it gets good. The merchant phoned me yesterday to review the installation timetable. He also informed me that he had called to cancel service with the current provider, and not more than an hour after he made the call, he received a call from the merchant level salesperson (MLS) who had signed the account. The MLS wanted to know the reason for the switch in providers.
The merchant was happy to explain that there were numerous reasons, but the number one reason was that our MLS was willing to attend the retailer's next event and make sure that everything went according to plan. Now mind you, the MLS lives in Florida, but the next event, which is coming up in November is in Galveston, Texas. So at his own cost, our agent, who has a technology background, is going to Texas for a week to make sure that everything is connected, running, and is willing to fix any problems that may arise.
Upon hearing that, the former processor's rep said, "Why didn't you just ask me?" The merchant replied, "Why do I even need to ask?" So everything came out great for us and not so great for the other guy, which got me to thinking. When was the last time any of us offered to go beyond the call of duty to make sure that a merchant was accommodated?
First of all, I realize that a merchant doing only $10,000 to $20,000 a month does not really warrant spending a great deal of money just to make sure that the merchant's experience is all warm and fuzzy. However, this was a multimillion-dollar merchant. When you get to that level, you had better think of anything and everything you can do or offer to make the merchant happy that he or she chose you.
Too often we put merchants on autopilot, and when they leave, we usually assume the reason is that they wanted to save money. However, many times it has to do with technology or customer service or just plain hands-on support. I have to admit that I am somewhat guilty of this, and some of it is due to the fact that I have been doing this for a very long time, and maybe I'm just a bit jaded.
Maybe the solution to this problem is that I, as well as others, should stop wasting our time on any merchant that cannot do a minimum of $1 million a year in credit cards. These larger merchants are the ones that don't just need hands on support; they demand it. It is no surprise that the small to midsize merchants we all started out chasing, and that some of us continue to chase, are being acquired by the Squares and PayPals of the world. We have lost that channel market. As much as this stinks, they may have done us a favor.
So from now on, what I plan to do is make absolutely sure that we not just pay monthly visits to all of our merchants that do more than $1 million a year; we will also offer a better hands-on customer support experience – and thus never end up saying to a merchant who leaves our company, "Why didn't you ask me?"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 772-220-7515.
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