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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 09, 2007 • Issue 07:07:01

It's cool to build karma

By Ken Musante
Humboldt Merchant Services

Ever want to make a nice deed better? Make it a surprise. Few things show appreciation like an unexpected small gift or act of kindness. We all know this. To illustrate, pick one chore around the house you are not responsible for and complete it without fanfare.

Then notice the good fortune you reap.

The same holds true in business. When you provide an ancillary service better than your customers expect, you will win their hearts.

If a retailer suddenly runs out of supplies and your staff person arrives with a couple of rolls of paper and a printer ribbon, the merchant will be pleased and more likely to turn to you when a more substantial need arises. It's only natural.

Certainly, these unadvertised good deeds must be small and inexpensive to provide, or you will go broke by exceeding expectations. But think about it. What can you or your processor do to exceed expectations within the payment services industry?

MLS actions

Merchant level salespeople (MLSs) can do the following for merchants:

  • Be available after the sale.
  • Show up after the first statement arrives and assist in reconciling it.
  • Assist in a crunch, such as a big sale, by providing free paper and/or a loaner terminal - anything small that will dramatically assist during a stressful time.
  • Frequent your merchants' establishments: Shop at their stores, dine at their restaurants and use their services.
  • Give referrals or offer introductions that will provide business assistance.
  • Intermittently telephone or e-mail to ask how you can be of help.
  • Make small donations to local charities in your customers' names.

Processor pluses

In selecting a processor, MLSs should ensure the processor supports and respects their hard work and assists with unadvertised good deeds. Specifically, processors can:

  • Answer phones according to the service level promised. (This may seem like a small thing, but a proven sales method of Humboldt Merchant Services' MLSs is to call our customer service number from the merchant's location and then call the merchant's current provider to illustrate the differences.)
  • Empower staff to resolve problems.
  • Train staff to deal with entire problems as they arise instead of just a portion of the issue.
  • Resolve issues with one phone call.
  • Educate merchants on how to minimize costs.
  • Care as much about merchants as you do.

I understand that both of the above lists sound trite, but they will help you exceed customer expectations. Why? Because this is not the norm within the industry. These actions will win a reserve of gratitude that may come in handy when you have bad news.

Lower gently the boom

Also, never surprise a merchant (or anyone) with bad news. Bad news can be more easily accepted if it is delivered at the right time. Think about it the next time you suddenly get charged back for a lease funding.

With adverse news, provide as much lead time as possible. This will allow you and your merchant to clearly think through possible alternatives. Even if there are no solutions, at least you can mutually arrive at that conclusion.

Put yourself in your merchant's place. You would want to know bad news sooner rather than later - whether it's a fee increase, a notice of a POS equipment security flaw, a setup delay, a chargeback or a risk alert on the account.

Whatever comes up, your customers want to hear it from you as soon as possible.

Communicate with them in a relaxed manner, and demonstrate your willingness to assist. Doing this will build trust and mutual empathy.

One last tip: Surprising someone with an unadvertised good deed is fine, but it does not offset the ire stirred up by a negative surprise.

Such a blow can wipe out a reservoir of spontaneous good deeds and severely hinder your ability to win and maintain trust.

As a test of this theory, pick one chore around the house someone is expecting you to complete and "forget" to do it. I think you'll agree the downside has far greater impact than the upside. end of article

Ken Musante is President of Humboldt Merchant Services. Contact him by e-mail at kmusante@hbms.com or by phone at 707-269-3200.

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

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