By Curt Hensley
In the volatile payments industry, with sales reps moving frequently from one job to another, it's hard enough for ISOs to recruit new talent. But once the hire is completed, the job of retaining that merchant level salesperson (MLS) is just beginning.
Unfortunately, many ISOs forget that fact - on the new hire's first day on the job. Consider the following scenario:
It's a great day at XYZ Merchant Processing. For the last month, this up-and-coming ISO has been aggressively recruiting a hot candidate to join its sales force, and the company got its rainmaker when John Smith came aboard.
The recruiting firm and the Vice President of Sales share high-fives at XYZ. Mission accomplished. Job well done.
While XYZ celebrated, Smith resigned his position with the competing payments processor and enjoyed a celebratory dinner with his wife.
But, as he lay in bed that night, Smith wondered if he made the right decision. He had had great success in the past, so he felt confident in his new job. But still he was nervous.
Smith arrives for his first day at XYZ, excited to get started. When Smith walks into the office and introduces himself to the secretary at the front desk, he is surprised to hear, "Oh, I didn't know we had a new person starting today. Who did you say you were here to see?"
Smith shrugs off this mistake; after all, it's not completely unheard of that the receptionist was not notified about the new employee.
The receptionist calls around and tells Smith that he is in the right place, but his manager, Suzanne, has not yet arrived at work. So Smith sits in the lobby as person after person walk by without saying a word.
Finally, Suzanne sashays in carrying a cup of coffee. She greets Smith in the lobby and takes him to his cubicle. Smith is surprised by what he sees.
The cluttered cubicle looks like it belongs to someone else. Suzanne explains that an MLS left the company the other day and no one had a chance to remove the clutter.
"I have an idea," Suzanne sputters. "Since I have a meeting to run to, why don't you get rid of this stuff, and then we can get together at 10. Here is a garbage can. Thanks."
Smith agrees, but he's a little miffed. "I signed up to sell, not provide janitorial services," he mutters.
While cleaning out the desk, he finds a farewell card in the top drawer signed by all XYZ employees. He thinks it thoughtful that they at least recognized the MLS, now long gone.
Suzanne returns to Smith. She notices that there is no computer set up for Smith in the cubicle. She calls the Internet technology department to see what happened and slams down the phone.
She complains to Smith that human resources forgot to notify IT. "They won't have your computer ready for a couple of days," she says, then adds distractedly, "I have another meeting to run to, but let's have lunch. Here is a bunch of stuff to read for now."
Suzanne produces a foot-high pile of wrinkled papers and says, "That should get you started."
Lunchtime comes and Suzanne hurriedly comes by the cubicle and asks Smith how he's doing. She then proceeds to apologize and tells him that she can no longer go to lunch with him.
She explains that she got called into another meeting but suggests that Smith go out and get lunch on his own. "We can get together at 1 p.m.," Suzanne says. "By the way, John, can you grab a burger for me? I'll pay you when you get back to the office."
Smith leaves for lunch in a huff; he's starting to question his decision to join XYZ. He thinks back to the interview process and how attentive the entire team was to his every answer. He remembers how aggressively they recruited him. Today, Smith feels like a third wheel on a blind date.
Smith comes back to the office with Suzanne's burger. He even got her a milkshake. Smith is hoping Suzanne has some time for him. Suzanne comes by Smith's cubicle and thanks him for the fast food. She asks Smith to come by her office at two o'clock to talk about his sales territory.
Smith sits in his cubicle and flips through the pile of papers left for him. All the while, employees walk past his cubicle without acknowledging that he's even there.
Smith trudges over to Suzanne's office. She explains that the sales team is in a bit of a transition period, and the compensation plan is changing. Thus, there is no compensation plan to share with Smith that day. The sales territories are also in flux, but that should be resolved "soon."
After chatting with Suzanne for about half-an-hour, Smith returns to his cubicle where he remains for the rest of the day, bored and confused.
Smith heads home where his wife asks about his first day. Smith says tiredly, "I'm glad I didn't pull my résumé off the job boards or tell the recruiters that I was off the market, because I don't know if this is going to work out. We'll have to see."
Many of you probably think I made up the entire preceding scenario. The truth is that this story is an amalgam of the many horror stories we've heard from the over 1,000 professionals we've placed at businesses in the merchant services industry.
We've even heard worse: tales of new employees being left to sit in the lobby the entire first morning; the manager being out of town on the new employee's first day; or flying a candidate in to town and forgetting to provide transportation to the office.
Then there is this doozy of a blunder - the president of a small company forgetting to even say hello to the new hire on day one while the new employee is told by others that the president took them to lunch and really made them feel welcome when they joined the team.
We even had one of our professionals encounter hard-core training that first day, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., then be asked at the end of the day to assemble a desk before going home.
The truth is that XYZ Merchant Processing happens to be a great company. It just made a very common mistake when hiring salespeople. Management worked so hard to recruit Smith, but then they stopped rolling out the red carpet for him. In fact, they pulled out the carpet from under him.
The company thought its job was done when Smith accepted the job. That was a mistake. His supervisors failed to recognize that they had only completed one of many steps.
The fictional company was missing a coordinated program to ensure the first impression made in the recruiting and interview process was reinforced when the person arrived for that first day of work.
This awful first step can be avoided by businesses implementing a new-hire welcoming program. It's not hard to do. However, it takes commitment on the part of the entire management team to make sure it is followed through on.
Think back to the story above. Smith found a messy cubicle and a farewell card given to a former employee on the way out. How about a welcome card for Smith placed in a clean cubicle equipped with everything he needs to do his job?
Office supplies, new-hire paperwork, a computer with e-mail already set up for him, a company directory, a phone ready for use, and so forth.
Again, it's not hard to do, but it does require thought and timely action.
It's always a classy move to send flowers or another gift to the new employee's home for the whole family to enjoy either on Smith's first day at work or prior to the first day.
Think of how Smith's wife would have felt about his new employer. Smith would feel appreciated as well and might forgive a few inevitable first day blunders.
Consider how much money XYZ Merchant Processing spent to recruit Smith. Now think about those dollars evaporating after Smith doesn't return after his first week, if he doesn't already split after that disastrous first day.
The merchant services industry is a competitive marketplace. Rolling out the red carpet for new hires is just one way to retain employees and keep your business growing.
Curt Hensley is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of CSH Consulting, a recruiting firm exclusively focused on the payments industry. He and his leadership team have over 50 years of combined experience recruiting in the merchant acquiring arena. They have placed more than 1,000 professionals over the past eight years. Contact Curt at 480-315-8800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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