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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 26, 2019 • Issue 19:08:02

Street SmartsSM

Prosper by providing superior service

By Dee and Emily Karawadra
Impact PaySystem

A shift in selling merchant processing has been underway for some time. We can remember times when Dee walked into potential merchant clients and was shut down before he could even start his pitch. The issue was that the reps who walked in before he arrived sold the merchants unreasonable leases and fees. Unethical practices were the norm in those days. From shady lease agreements that never canceled and were overpriced, to offering a teaser rate that only a small number of merchants' transactions qualified for, malfeasance was everywhere. How times have changed.   Starting from the early days of our relationship, we had conversations about ethics in this business. In fact, it was one of the main reasons we decided to form our own ISO. In researching best business practices in merchant services, Dee spoke with the owner of an ISO we put deals through and asked him, "How can we recruit sales agents?"

His answer blew us away. He said, "It's a churn and burn industry. You get an agent; hopefully, he puts on a few deals, and he is gone. And you go find someone else." This got us thinking about our own situation. We couldn't help but wonder, what if that ISO "burns" us? And he did.

Strive for excellence, not perfection

Today, businesses have to focus on providing great service, building relationships that last and being ethical in all business dealings. No exceptions. Providing great service does not mean you have to be perfect. Let's face it: issues are going to arise no matter how good your platform is. There is no such thing as a perfect ISO or processor. Dee knows. He's been hoping to find one for more than 20 years now.

That said, excellence does exist in this industry, and great service is integral to an ISO or processor's ability to achieve stellar performance. Great service consists of many things. Here are ways we ensure superior service in our ISO for merchant level salespeople (MLSs) and merchants alike:

  • Communicate effectively with MLSs and merchants. We have a three-ring rule in our office during business hours. Someone must pick up the inbound calls before the third ring. In many ways, your office is a lifeline for agents in the field or merchants experiencing issues. Providing them a contact department or person will lower your attrition rates. Being sensitive to how your MLSs prefer to communicate also strengthens your relationships with them. Some old-school MLSs may prefer to have a conversation by phone or in person rather than communicate via email or text, the preferred modes of communication for many millennials.
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up. Be sure to follow up with your MLSs/agents on any pending deals or open issues regarding their merchants. In a service situation for a merchant, follow up and follow through is vital in keeping the merchant in your portfolio. As we all know, sometimes finding the correct answers can take a minute when you're dealing with processors or ISOs. Keeping merchants abreast of the status of their requests puts them at ease because they know someone is working on the issue for them.
  • Be transparent. Being transparent in your service model and your agent residual system is a necessity these days. Despite this, there are ISOs or sub-agents of ISOs that still do not provide accurate reporting on residuals. We have seen situations where MLSs receive no reporting at all. Requiring transparency within your own company and in partners whose dealings affect your business is a must at all times. It will help honest, hard-working individuals put an end to the padding of interchange and deceptive billing practices that persist in some quarters of the industry.

    MLSs need to be confident that you are billing their customers as quoted and that the processor or ISO is not adding in hidden fees. This also pertains to merchant statements. If your agents can't figure out how to read their monthly merchant statements, how can they sell a transparent program? In the field, they spend a lot of valuable time convincing prospective merchant customers that they are not like previous providers that disguised fees in their statements as interchange.

  • Protect your reputation: Having strong fundamental values in your ISO or MLS office can aid you in building your book of business. Your reputation in this industry tends to follow you. Although we are a huge industry with a lot of players, a bad egg is remembered. If you burn agents or their merchant customers with unfair business deals, you will leave footprints of your shifty dealings behind. Despite the size of our industry, it functions like a small world and, as the saying goes, your reputation precedes you.

    Set your standards high, and stick to them no matter how tempting it might be, at times, to do otherwise. Remember, sometimes you will have to make an ethical call that may cost you money in the short term, but in the long run, it can save your reputation. We all still run into unscrupulous sales agents whose mission is to make quick sales and then never again touch the merchants they snared.

Susceptible merchants are the ones these companies prey upon.

Merchants want familiar faces to service their accounts. Little by little, we are changing the perceptions of ISOs and processors by delivering excellent service at a fair price. In a marketplace where it used to seem that price always won, it no longer does. Merchants who have not been serviced in years are looking to start new relationships, and that's what we consider our bread and butter.

Building strong relationships at the MLS/agent level is what has helped us keep our edge and market share over the years; reduced attrition is the side effect.

Safari Njema! end of article

Dee Karawadra is president and CEO of Impact PaySystem, and Emily Karawadra is the company's chief financial officer. Since 2001, Impact PaySystem has been a leading provider of payment processing technologies and services to merchants throughout the United States. Through alliances with payments industry leaders such as Chase Paymentech, First Data, Buypass, Sage and more, Impact PaySystem offers tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of each merchant. Dee and Emily will welcome your questions and comments at dee@impactpays.com and emily@impactpays.com, respectively.

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