By Jeffrey Shavitz
Charge Card Systems Inc.
We all know it is more efficient and cost-effective to keep an old customer than it is to acquire a new one. But maintaining your current merchant portfolio requires effort; you need to cultivate relationships on a personal and professional basis, offer great service and find new ways to bring value to your partnerships.
As our world becomes more complex, time is more of a luxury, and it's more challenging trying to arrange meetings with people we don't know to talk about our products or services. Even when you do get someone on the phone, he or she is ready to hang up before even understanding what we are offering.
And crafting compelling email messages doesn't guarantee your electronic overtures will be well-accepted either. There are legal requirements to meet in qualifying email blasts as permission-based marketing, so tread carefully.
With so many ads, pitches and offers competing for our prospects' attention, it's a difficult environment in which to communicate our unique value proposition to those who don't already have a vested interest in hearing more about it.
In our industry, there are four types of customers: prospects, current customers, loyal customers and former customers. Given the difficulty of converting prospects to customers (or re-attracting a former customer), a good portion of our client-relationship efforts should go toward maintaining a base of loyal customers, or as Ken Blanchard calls them, raving fans.
Cultivating relationships with your merchants requires not only knowing what is going on in their businesses, but also what is going on in their lives - from what activities their children are involved in to their favorite vacation spots. This type of insider knowledge requires consistent engagement with, and genuine interest in, each merchant as an individual. So take one day per week, or even just a few hours per week, and stay in touch with your existing customers.
Checking in regularly with your merchants provides the opportunity for you to learn more about their business needs, offer additional products and services and even to hear complaints. If a merchant has a criticism of your service, it's better to address it head-on than to learn from your next residual statement that you lost the account. It's a horrible feeling when you review your current statement and see $0 next to that merchant's name when you could have nipped the problem in the bud.
Imagine if you had just 100 satisfied merchants, and each one gave you a few referrals and then each one of the new merchants gave you several referrals. I think you would agree that you would have a highly successful and profitable business, primarily achieved by pleasing your core customers.
How many referrals do you get per week or month? Think about it: why are some merchant level salespeople writing only a few deals per month and others are writing 15 to 20 deals per month - with less effort? It's not luck; they are working smart by leveraging referrals from their current portfolios.
Adam Moss, the National Sales Manager for Charge Card Systems Inc., and I spend endless hours each month thinking about this concept and how to help our sales partners continuously grow their respective portfolios.
A quote I once read (from a book whose title and author I can't remember) said, "It's hard to follow the leader. Why? Because the leader did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken - it's no longer remarkable when you do it."
Keep reinventing yourself and figuring out new and remarkable ways to keep your customers happy and fulfilled so that you can reduce attrition and continue to build your merchant portfolio.
Jeffrey Shavitz is one of the founders of Charge Card Systems Inc. He is also an active member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board and the First Data ISO Advisory Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-878-4100. For additional information on CCS, please visit www.chargecardsystems.com/gsadvisoryboard or the company's corporate website at www.chargecardsystems.com.
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