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How to Service Your Merchants to Secure Your Portfolio

How is your customer support? Do your customers love you and the service you provide? Are there any customers that you do not want to see in Walmart tonight? After working through some major customer issues with a large local account over the last few weeks, I decided to post an article about customer […]


How is your customer support?  Do your customers love you and the service you provide?  Are there any customers that you do not want to see in Walmart tonight? After working through some major customer issues with a large local account over the last few weeks, I decided to post an article about customer service. Here are some quick tips on customer service:

1. Set the right expectations. In my experience, more than 60% of all customer issues should never have been issues in the first place.  They are simply a direct result of the sales agent setting expectations too high at the beginning. Here is an example scenario: You get to that crucial moment in the sale when the customer says, “One of my main concerns is …. how will you be better than my current processor?”  You quickly and rashly reply with one of these types of promises: “Your terminal will be installed and ready to go three days from now!!” or – “You will never have those types of technical issues with our company!” or another favorite – “You can call me 24 hours a day, because I provide personalized tech support anytime night or day.”   Here are a few expectations that you should set with your customers:

A. “It may take a few weeks before I get the terminal installed.” You have no idea what issues will come up with a client’s current processor. You may get a faulty terminal and have to send it back for a swap. Or there might be issues with the way the terminal is set up that a third party such as a phone provider needs to adjust before you can complete the installation.
B. “You may have technical issues such as communication errors or incorrect settings the first 3 to 4 weeks. These are issues which need to be adjusted to fit your business procedures and network settings.” You will learn quickly that our settings may be different than a client’s current settings. I always tell clients to expect problems the first couple weeks, and I let them know that the installation process is not complete until a few “problem free” weeks go by.
C. “I will get that issue taken care of for you in the next 5 business days and keep you posted on the progress.”  When a client comes to me with a random issue, I don’t say, “That will be fixed today!” Set realistic, even pessimistic, expectations when you receive a random issue.

2. Never listen to a customer issue without making specific notes, summarizing the concerns, and outlining your action plan and timeline. When you get a customer service call or are following up with a customer who says, “I’ve had so many problems,” take out a pen and pad of paper. You could say, “Hold on one second while I make some notes on this.” Separate each issue, and clarify what the problem is. I constantly stop the customer by saying, “Okay, so let me make sure I understand this first issue.” Write it down then say, “I will look into this and get back with you. Are there any other major concerns like this that I need to be aware of?” DON’T say, “Do you have any other problems?” That is a terrible, terrible question which usually says to the customer, “Your concern was a stupid issue which doesn’t even deserve my full attention. Is there anything else that is an actual problem or is this the only petty thing you called me for?”

3. Always give the customer confirmation that you are more concerned about the issuethan they are. I say things like, “Wow, that is absolutely unacceptable; I am going to get this resolved. Is there anything else I need to be aware of so I can get everything straightened out?”

4. Alert the customer about each action that you take. This is one of those rare times when “more is more.” In other words, let your customers know when real progress has been made. Make progress immediately and consistently until the problem has been resolved. When I was dealing with the client mentioned above, we had 3 major concerns. One was a technical issue that was causing several locations to be down; one was a finance issue where several customers had been charged multiple times; and one was an issue about the way we deposited funds into his account. After the initial meeting, I quickly recognized that the first two would take several days to resolve but the third could be taken care of with a simple call to your processor. I made the call as soon as I left the meeting. Within ten minutes of our meeting, I was able to call the business owner with news that this one issue was already resolved. I also agreed to send the merchant a summary email each day at 9 a.m. with an update on the progress of the other two issues.

5. Your goal is not to make the customer happy; your goal is to fix the problem. Too many agents are just trying to make the customer happy. They call the customer and say, “This is getting fixed.” Or, “I’m all over this, and you can count on me!” The best thing you can say is, “I fixed the problem.” Stop spending your time trying to deceive the customer into blissful ignorance and start spending time fixing the problem. Take action; do the next thing you can do, and do it right now!!!! I recently had a customer issue which I had been procrastinating for 3 weeks. I kept telling the merchant, “This will be fixed!” “I’m doing my best.” But I was thinking, “I just don’t have time to deal with this huge issue!!!” When I finally sat down and decided to take the necessary time to fix it, guess how long it took?…15 minutes!!! I had spent at least 2 hours talking to the merchant and trying to keep him happy while I procrastinated on actually fixing the problem. How much happier would he have been if I would have spent 15 minutes fixing the issue the first day and called him the next day to say, “It’s fixed!”  That would have been a win / win!

6. Don’t confuse “concern” with “panic.”  The customer wants you to be concerned but not panicked. Don’t ruin your schedule for the day in order to be panicked about a minor issue. When a customer calls with a concern, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I have a meeting I’ll be in for the next couple hours. Could I call you back at 3 p.m. so that I can give this issue my full attention?” Show concern and control at the same time. In other words, get this message across to your client: “That is a very serious issue, and I know exactly what needs to be done to fix it.” еКEmphasize two things: first, the customer has every right to be upset. еКSecond, you have the intention and ability to fix the situation and resolve the concern. One last thought: there are two types of concerns. Concerns that affect the owner or bookkeeper and concerns that directly affect the paying clients. Learn to recognize the difference and understand that the type of problem directly effecting the paying client is ten times more serious and 100 times more urgent than the first type. If a terminal is down or if a customer has been charged twice instead of once, that is a major, urgent issue which needs immediate attention. If the billing statement from the processor is off, a scheduled meeting later in the week is required. Does that make sense?

…Hope this helps!

James Shepherd

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