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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 22, 2022 • Issue 22:08:02

Street SmartsSM

Happy merchant or loyal merchant: Which would you rather have?

By Natasa Cvijanovic
Tesla Payments

Defining the ideal cardholder experience has become increasingly difficult, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, as online sales and services have evolved. Merchants cannot rely on nonverbal communication when it comes to online customers. In comparison, determining a cardholder's level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction is much easier in physical stores.

The cardholders' interactions with a merchant's brand influences how they perceive the merchant's brand. Additionally, customer feedback left on online platforms tends to spread much faster than traditional feedback does. How can merchants improve their customer satisfaction and loyalty if their perceptions of cardholders are uncertain?

As a merchant level salesperson (MLS), you play a critical role in assisting merchants in providing that ideal experience to their customers, which frequently results in happy merchants in your book. Happy merchants, on the other hand, are not always loyal merchants.

Throughout my Street SmartsSM writing journey, I have repeatedly mentioned merchant loyalty, but haven't defined it or explained its significance. To understand merchant loyalty, it is critical to first grasp the key distinctions between merchant satisfaction and merchant loyalty. Why is merchant loyalty so important?

Years ago, at an event, I watched a speaker tackle this same question and solicit responses from the audience. Several sales representatives in the audience argued about the relative importance of each and whether or not the distinction between the two matters at all, until the speaker stated "Allow me to bring it home for you. Which would you prefer: a happy spouse or a loyal spouse?"

Suddenly, everyone in the audience had the same response and realized why the distinction is important. It is an unorthodox method of making a point, but it worked and was memorable. Merchant satisfaction indicates how happy your merchants are with your service or company, while merchant loyalty is a reflection of merchants' commitment to you. Obviously, this goes far beyond simple merchant satisfaction. In any business, particularly in ours, merchant loyalty is far more important than merchant satisfaction.

A merchant who is loyal to you will tell their friends and family about you and your company, and they will not easily switch to a competitor. All merchants who are loyal to their merchant service provider are also happy merchants, but not all happy merchants are loyal.

Road from happy to loyal

The foundation of any successful business is customer loyalty. Your business cannot exist without your merchants, but it is difficult to keep a satisfied merchant loyal to your company.

What improves merchant satisfaction and retention is when you provide an exceptional customer experience and service, as well as go above and beyond for your merchants. As a result, merchant loyalty is entirely your responsibility. It is also your responsibility to provide exceptional customer service to any merchant, so much so that they cannot turn you down.

But how do you go about it? Here are my suggestions:

  • Improve your response time: Excellent response time is one of the most effective ways to ensure merchant loyalty. This includes building an effective customer service team—even if this is just you—that merchants can contact with questions or concerns and that responds quickly and effectively to merchant inquiries. The same applies for inquiries and questions that may come through social media. If a merchant is kept waiting for a long time, they will choose to do business elsewhere. Exceed their expectations.
  • Be open and honest about your mistakes: There will be days when things do not go according to plan. Networks go down, POS systems fail and mistakes happen; rather than denying the issue or blaming others, be honest with your merchants. Accept responsibility and resolve the issue, or make every effort to do so, rather than becoming defensive.
  • Develop relationships that go beyond business: Throughout my writing, I have repeatedly emphasized the significance of establishing a more personal connection with merchants. I have provided examples, for example, my article in the June 13, 2022 edition of The Green Sheet included advice and suggestions on how to use merchant birthdays to strengthen and grow relationships that eventually will lead to increased loyalty. Bottom line, get to know your merchants.
  • Focus on your strengths: What is your area of expertise? What sets you and your services apart from those of your competitors? Answering these questions will help you define your brand and remain true to it, which is key to fostering merchant loyalty. Be a dependable and trustworthy company in our industry and in your community, one that customers can always rely on.
  • Promote new products: Make sure your merchants know about new products and services you offer. Losing merchants hurts, but nothing hurts more than discovering that they left for a product or service you provide, but they were unaware of it because you failed to communicate about it to them.
  • Provide incentives and rewards to loyal merchants: There are a variety of ways to do this, such as offering your most loyal merchants a free industry upgrade on occasion or providing a greater variety of value-added services and improved terms. Your merchants want to know they are appreciated. Remember, despite the fact that they could have chosen any other merchant service provider, including their local bank, they chose to do business with you.
  • Ask for feedback, listen and engage: Every MLS should try to solicit and respond to merchant feedback. It's an excellent opportunity to show that you're listening and responding to merchants' suggestions. However, you will struggle to retain your merchants over the long term if you only communicate with them when you need something from them or when they have an issue with your service. The goal here is to focus on building relationships with your merchants to gain their trust and loyalty.

In the best of times, merchant loyalty can help your business thrive; in the worst of times, it can help you survive. This was brought into clear focus by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most MLSs have discovered at some point that signing merchants is one thing, but keeping them is an entirely different animal. Improving merchant loyalty should be your top priority; otherwise, the merchants you worked so hard to sign may disappear overnight. end of article

Natasa Cvijanovic, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Payments, has a proven track record within the payment industry of cultivating successful relationships with ISOs, MLSs and strategic partners. In developing national sales channels, she provides training and coaching to sales partners to enable them to become better business partners and advocates for their merchants, and to assist them in building portfolios producing steady residual streams. She is also dedicated to consistently delivering high levels of professionalism, integrity, dependability and trustworthiness. Contact her at natasa@teslapayments.com.

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Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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