By Theodore Svoronos
The industry is going through a drastic change. Offering a good rate, cash advance and equipment is no longer enough to push forward the growth, expansion and viability that ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) are striving for.
As ISOs and MLSs, we have to do something different to stand out; we need to bring a more complete meaning to the term ISO.
ISOs and MLSs have to become knowledgeable industry experts to gain business and keep merchants. Not only should industry professionals give merchants either the possibility of accepting credit cards or better rates, but they should also be consultants to their merchants and assist them with their business needs whenever possible.
Merchants greatly appreciate the value of extra attention. This, in turn, cements loyalty that cannot be fractured by cheaper rates from other ISOs or MLSs.
Offering a less expensive deal is not enough to significantly grow any business today; it doesn't impress merchants like it used to. Merchants are demanding more. ISOs need to add value to their offerings and drive it to the MLSs, all the way down to the merchants.
So, old practices aside, what is the variable that ISOs and MLSs need to attract merchants? This complex equation has only one solution: additional education.
The industry has been talking about educating merchants in many different arenas. Today, a good portion of seasoned merchants are well-educated when it comes to rates, services and what they are looking for because they are being solicited by countless organizations. So, now we have to set the bar higher.
As payments professionals, we have to build an arsenal of value added services to educate our agents, partners and merchants on how the e-commerce food chain functions.
So, when we sign merchants, we should take the time to truly teach them about anything having to do with e-commerce and business. This could range from Web site design, security, compliancy, regulations, processing, chargebacks and so forth.
When we do this, merchants will know who to call if they have any questions, comments or concerns regarding their general business or processing operations. And, they will be able to better understand the e-commerce and processing space, as well as everything attached to it.
Education is enlightening. Merchants will begin to truly comprehend why they need to do certain things, what compliancy is and how it works to their benefit. Being proactive is the best way to drastically minimize any challenges that may arise, and teaching merchants can be seen as a safety measure to keep business flowing smoothly.
Our merchants not only look at us as payment providers but as their confidants. They need MLSs who will give them consultancy and advisory services, and put their troubles at ease. They should be able to contact us at any time, and when they do, we should assist them in instituting the best practices for their businesses.
A well-constructed risk department that constantly monitors portfolios and signals a corresponding agent when an issue or challenge arises can be instrumental to assisting merchants. Risk departments have been very well-accepted by merchants: They want knowledgeable industry professionals in these areas to tell them what to do and how to execute it so as to keep their businesses viable and profitable.
The payments industry as a whole should be heading into the era of education. As industry professionals, we need to raise our standards. There should be a desire to teach merchants more to help them bring in substantial business. A high level of commitment to education truly is the key to bringing a merchant on board.
As regulations, methods of payment, rates and products evolve, this message should be clearly conveyed from the ISO all the way to the merchant. MLSs can no longer rely on state-of-the-art equipment and cash advances. To have a brighter payments future, a little education will go a long way.
Theodore Svoronos is a certified e-Commerce Consultant and certified Fraud Examiner for Group ISO. He has been in the e-commerce industry for eight years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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