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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 08, 2008 • Issue 08:09:01

Admit, own, fix your bloopers

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Mistakes happen. By nature, no one is perfect; we all err. As the payments industry is comprised of people, many faux pas occur within our industry, as well. These can result in everything from simple nuisances, to loss of merchant accounts and livelihoods in shambles.

Imagine this: You are downloading a terminal at the restaurant of your newest merchant customer, who chose to do the download before a lunch or dinner rush.

As this is the restaurateur's first post-sales experience of you, how you handle the situation will set the tone for your overall future relationship.

This situation presents several areas where mistakes could happen. You recognize that these areas exist, but you also face a time crunch. The restaurant's peak time draws near. Any issues that interfere with the merchant's ability to accept cards will have a serious impact on the restaurant.

You complete the download on the terminal with time to spare, thank the merchant and leave. Two hours later, you receive a call informing you the terminal will not accept American Express Co. transactions.

After calls to the help desk, you discover the terminal wasn't properly set up for AmEx. The oversight is corrected and the new download is transmitted to the terminal.

Step into action

Again, how you respond to merchants in these types of situations will define your relationships with them. Some responses (or lack thereof) can lead to merchant account loss - the right responses can lead to more business and future referrals.

When you make a mistake, take these three steps to address it:

  • Admit it.
  • Own it.
  • Fix it.

It's all about communication. Once a mistake is identified, immediately recognize it for what it is: a human error. Someone goofed, but who did so should not be your focus; fixing the problem should be.

A simple statement will suffice, for example, "There is an error that needs to be corrected. I apologize and will take care of it immediately." Again, admit it and own it.

Even though the mistake may have been made by a processor or vendor, take ownership. Don't pass the blame or point fingers. Merchants don't care who is at fault, they just want remediation.

Something else to consider is that unless you are perfect, you cannot hold others to perfection. Blaming another for a snafu may be technically correct, but it will likely put you in a negative light. And it accomplishes nothing.

This doesn't mean you don't point out the gaffe to the person who made it - just be careful that you don't do it as a finger-pointing exercise. Do it for what can be learned - by you, as well as by the person who made the error.

Take precautions

Even though a certain amount of mistakes are inevitable, you can be proactive in taking steps to avoid them. Here are some suggestions:

  • When requesting something from someone, be clear and exact about what you need. Leave nothing open to interpretation. This applies to processing partners, merchants and, yes, co-workers.

  • Even if you think you've been clear in your request, have the person you're asking something of repeat back to you what you are requesting.

    This simple process can be a crucial step in avoiding those all-too-frequent blunders that occur because of misunderstandings.

  • When completing a task (such as a terminal download), do not rush the process. Take the time necessary to get it right.

    Haste usually results in a missed step, which may impact subsequent, multiple steps and actually use up more time in the long run than would have been needed to do the job at a measured pace.

  • Do not multitask when completing a project. If you are not concentrating on the project at hand, you are more likely to make errors.

    Multitasking (although considered an admirable skill) is a common cause of mistakes.

    It weakens your concentration, resulting in inferior products, as well as messes that could easily be avoided with proper attention from the outset.

  • Learn from mistakes, both yours and those others have made. Don't just correct them. Determine why a slip occurred, and address the cause.

    Repeating a mistake because you didn't take the time to learn from previous errors is not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Beware of traps

It is also essential to avoid the mistake trap. A mistake trap is a process, procedure or effort that has a design flaw that is likely to cause an error no matter how you proceed.

The clearest example of a mistake trap occurred during World War II. As new planes with new technology were deployed, there was an alarming increase in accidents and crashes during combat and training.

"Pilot error" was a term coined to explain the cause. But this reason seemed implausible to two officers, so they interviewed a number of pilots to try to determine the root cause.

The pilots reported that the controls inside the cockpit were confusing or inconveniently placed. The cockpit was the root cause for these errors.

The most common mistake trap in our industry is when we don't admit to not having a solution a particular merchant needs.

But instead of admitting this, we try to adapt what we have to satisfy the merchant. In this instance, the risk of error becomes great.

In most cases, the results not only don't solve the problem; they make it worse. Avoid this trap by being honest and upfront about what your solution can and can't do.

Yes, mistakes happen. If you follow these simple rules - admit the error, own it and fix it - your result can be better relationships with your merchant customers - and more money in your pocket. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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

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