Merchant Retention & Three Uncomfortable Topics


I believe it's safe to say that retention is at least a part of every independent salesperson's ultimate goals. After all, the longer a merchant stays, the better the revenue. Additionally, building a strong portfolio creates significant value for all merchants.

Some just give this concept lip service, concentrating on the next sale instead of trying to retain the last one. They trust the "relationship" they built during the sale to carry forward.

Others will take a few ongoing steps, like sending a quarterly newsletter or making random check in calls and visits to their merchants. These are sound ideas, but have their limits. They tend to be general in nature, and in the case of the newsletter, can easily be ignored.

But what if there were three areas you could address that, although they may seem uncomfortable, they could help your merchants avoid pain and position you as their trusted advisor? These are proactive steps to clarify statements, control chargebacks, and avoid held funds.

Retention Improver #1: Understanding Statements

I could fill five blogs on the confusing statements out there today. Merchants have all but given up on understanding the detail and data provided, making it easy to just ignore this important tool.

They would be shocked and surprised if you reached out after their first full month to review their statement and help them understand the data. And if your statement is truly transparent, you may find their disgust with their old statement adds to their trust in you and their stickiness as a merchant.

The first step is to make sure you fully understanding your statement. If your ISO partner offers a confusing and potentially deceptive statement, you may want to reconsider the relationship.

Take your merchant through the statement and explain what each category covers. Show them where to find potential concerns and point out areas they should discuss with you. Don't be afraid to lead them by the hand to areas they should be concerned about.

Retention Improver #2: Chargebacks

No merchant believes they will ever have a chargeback, until they do. When it happens, they blame everyone, including the independent sales agent. Someone took their money, and they want it back. They don't understand that it was likely the consumer and that everyone in the process was impacted.

Be proactive. There are resources available that can be shared with merchants before a chargeback occurs. These documents will help them avoid potential chargebacks and understand how to resolve them in a timely manner.

Also, in today's world where merchants are more technologically savvy, they are more likely to use online reporting. Show them the importance of checking the data daily. These reports should provide them with notices of any chargebacks well before they receive the written notice.

Retention Improver #3: Held Funds

"Where is my money?!" We have all received a call before that began with this question. The merchant sees their deposit, but notices that a large amount is missing. Sure, there may be technical issues, but the likelihood is that they had a large ticket that was held.

Train your merchants on the steps to take before the ticket is submitted. In many cases, they can avoid any held funds by reaching out first and being proactive. Keep in mind that some partners set a maximum ticket. In that case, you need to advise the merchant of this situation when they are set up, or find a partner who doesn't do that.

The time to train the merchant is when you first set them up. Ask questions about their sales, and inquire about the largest sale they have had. If they indicate one that would likely fall into a large ticket consideration, walk them through the steps to avoid having their funds held.

These three areas can be uncomfortable conversations, but only if you avoid the topics completely. Trusted advisors know it's best to raise these types of topics before they become a pain, so make sure you address them early on with your merchants. I bet you'll find that they go a long way toward build loyalty. Remember, becoming your merchants' trusted advisor improves retention, and isn't that your end goal after all?