The Green Sheet Online Edition
May 26, 2008 • Issue 08:05:02
Survey says: Nurture by Q & A
Personal relationships can be difficult. Minor annoyances that invariably crop up between individuals can build up over time. Usually these issues can be diffused if properly dealt with before they reach the boiling point. But if they are not diffused, they can blow up into arguments and fights that, in turn, may lead to more serious outcomes, such as estrangement or even divorce.
A similar dynamic exists between ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) and their merchant clients. Recognizing that the sales rep-merchant relationship is a relationship makes addressing merchant complaints a top priority. But sales reps have to be proactive and recognize small problems before they fester into big issues that may end up with merchants divorcing ISOs and switching to the competition.
Dig for the truth
Just as when you ask your companion how he or she is doing, and the bland response is "Fine," more digging is necessary to find out how your loved one is really doing. Similarly, when asking merchant customers how things are going with the services you provide, sometimes merchants will tell you what they think you want to hear.
To make interactions less stressful, they may keep silent on the minor annoyances associated with your service: Maybe the POS terminal spits out too much receipt paper or there's an irksome misspelling on every receipt - problems that can be easily corrected in a few minutes with a partial download.
These types of minor issues may seem trivial, but if they aren't addressed, they can work themselves into major problems. So you have to get beyond the superficial "nice" answer for the truth of what might really be bothering merchants. Ninety percent of merchant complaints have to do with user interface issues, whether that means virtual, mobile or countertop POS terminals. These payment devices are designed to be user friendly and reliable. But what happens when they are not?
Many merchants pay monthly fees to ensure overnight POS replacement in the event of equipment failure. But even next-day replacements can be costly for a small business owner in terms of lost sales, settlement delays and cash flow issues. So, whether they are too busy to call to complain about something minor or fearful that their old machine may be on its last legs, conducting merchant surveys is a great way to get feedback from clients.
Break out the questions
Surveys get results because they ask questions. Questions are designed to stimulate thought and discussion. Brainstorm at your next sales meeting to come up with a list of question topics. Here are a few ideas:
- Counter appeal
- Ease of use
- Reliability, speed and functionality
From these key categories, formulate questions. Here are several sample questions:
1. Hardware health: Is your terminal in need of a tuneup? Is your hardware up-to-date and is there anything about it that could be improved?
2. Counter appeal: Are the numbers and letters on your terminal keypad easy to read? Have any of your customers commented on the loudness of your terminal's printer when waiting for a receipt?
3. Ease of use: Is it easy to void or cancel a transaction on your machine? Is it easy to manage each of the following payment services: gift, loyalty, age verification and check imaging?
4. Reliability: How many times a week does your terminal require a new program download? On average, how many rolls of paper do you use during batch settlement? Does your device periodically lose memory, possibly due to electrical surges? Is it connected to a surge protector?
5. Speed: Does your device meet industry average transaction times - 28 seconds via dialup or 2 seconds via Internet protocol?
6. Functionality: If you could change anything about your current credit card terminal or processing services, what would you change?
7. Equipment: Which of the following devices would help you accept new forms of payment in your business? Check all that apply:
- PIN pad
- Check imager
- Contactless reader
- Automated teller machine
- Electronic gift or loyalty program
Make it fun
To go along with your survey, throw in a prize or raffle for merchants who return their questionnaires before a certain deadline. Or present a clearance sale or limited time offer. If the survey includes a raffle, make sure to publicize the winners, and consider offering a small consolation prize to all who those who didn't win but took the time to answer the survey.
Furthermore, reward all customers who responded with a note of appreciation. And, of course, address any issues or concerns raised in the survey. Remember, as in business as in love, the secret to a sustained and mutually profitable relationship is in asking the right questions.
Dale S. Laszig has a varied background in sales for First Data Corp., Hypercom Corp. and VeriFone. Her dedication to technology, writing and graphic design led to the formation of DSL Direct LLC, a marketing services company geared toward payment professionals. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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