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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 14, 2015 • Issue 15:12:01

Choose bold, new transparency for 2016

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

As the end of another year approaches, companies big and small are planning for the new year. Conversations concern how to drive new business and reduce merchant attrition. Ultimately, someone will suggest a bold, new strategy to obtain these goals. From this will come a marketing plan to help execute the strategy.

This process sounds great in theory, but by the time the strategy is vetted, it is usually no longer bold or new. Meanwhile, payment professionals without formal budgets and marketing plans are considering the same points:

  • What goals should I set for the coming year?
  • How will I accomplish those goals?
  • What will be the key to my success next year?
  • What can I do to set myself apart from my competition?

They, too, seek bold, new strategies to help grow their businesses. However, while they are searching for the secret to success, many will be handcuffed by their offerings, experience or a fear of change.

The other problem is that bold, new strategies tend to become complicated. Plus, many appear to be bold and new but are, in fact, a repackaging of an old process.

A different kind of bold and new

For years I have employed a bold new strategy that can increase your sales, shorten the sales cycle, help with merchant retention and even overcome many common obstacles in today's marketplace. This strategy can be successfully executed by anyone, no matter their skill level, and it can be summed up in one sentence: I will be transparent in everything I do.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines transparent as "easy to understand, being honest and open: not secretive." Many say they are transparent, but it's really nothing more than lip service. Being transparent requires an intentional effort and a full mindset adjustment. You must commit to full transparency, which is not easy. Not only do you have to be transparent, you must make every effort to demonstrate that transparency.

Three clear steps

Here are three steps to help you turn "I will be transparent in everything I do" into a bold new strategy.

  1. Be easy to understand: The payments industry is complicated, and jargon abounds. We also love using acronyms. That's what makes it so easy to fall into "industry speak" when talking with merchants. At best, the result is a confused merchant; at worst, is a merchant who feels inferior because he or she doesn't understand the terms you are throwing around.

    Take Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) for example. Merchants were told they had to convert their systems to accept EMV cards, and many did so. But how many of them even know what EMV stands for?

    Being easy to understand means speaking the merchant's language. Instead of using acronyms like EMV, explain the topic and educate your merchants by using terms they can understand: in this case, chip cards.

    To accomplish this, spend ample time learning the key facts about the topic at hand. Don't aim to be a subject matter expert. Strive to gain enough knowledge about the topic and then translate it into terms merchants will understand. Practice by using as a sounding board a spouse, friend or relative who is not in the business. If that person understands what you are trying to say, a merchant will, too.

  2. Be open and honest: You must be willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly. It's easy to share the good, but the last two are much more difficult. They require intentional effort. If you have to share a negative, do it immediately, be clear, and above all, be sympathetic.

    Being open and honest also means being proactive, which can enhance merchant retention. Don't be shy in reaching out to your merchants with information and knowledge that can help them. Newsletters are one tool to help you do just that. Use them to share facts about the industry and help maintain open and honest lines of communication with your merchants.

    Emphasize that you are transparent, and ask your merchants to be transparent with you as well. Encourage them to share the good, the bad and the ugly, as well.

  3. Eliminate secrecy: This sounds straightforward, but secrecy is not always intentional. It can be perceived.

    We have all seen statements that are so complicated that even the most seasoned payment professionals struggle to analyze the data. In many cases, significant information is provided but not the information that's needed. If the statement is confusing to someone in the payments business, imagine how complicated it is to your merchants.

    Thoroughly examine your offering, including your partners and vendors. If necessary, seek alternatives that are clearer and do not confuse or evade. Make sure that the fees billed to your merchants are accurate and have not been adjusted or artificially inflated.

Being transparent is not just a mindset; it's a philosophy that can and will generate profitable, long-term relationships. And isn't that the ultimate goal for 2016? end of article

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

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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