Beginning with this issue, InsideBanking will be carrying a series of six articles designed by experts from the merchant processing industry. These experts specialize in helping community banks improve their fee income and their customer retention. The intense competition from larger banks with their extensive services offerings, make it critical for community banks to maximize fee income while maintaining the high level of customer service that their clients expect.
This series will allow you to identify some criteria for picking the best merchant processing partner for your bank. This is a critical decision which can make huge differences for you and your clients, both in the short term and in the long term.
The series will be written by current executives from the merchant processing industry who have many years of relevant experience. Some have many prior years of experience as bankers themselves and were formerly directly involved with their banks’ merchant processing programs. More recently, they have become merchant processing executives specializing in the needs of community banks.
Each article will touch on one of the below six important factors:
1. One on One…NOT 1- 800!! (Dedicated Rep’s offering personalized service for your bank and your bank’s customers.)
2. Sticky Product (Improving customer retention)
3. Increased Fee Income
4. Increased Market Presence
5. Reverse Referrals
6. Stronger Sales Force
Below is the first article and it is entitled:
ONE ON ONE…NOT 1-800 !
It is more important than ever for community banks to remain relevant to their clients. In order to compete against larger financial institutions and non-bank lenders, successful community banks distinguish themselves by trying to provide better customer service. We hope these clients who are bombarded by “me-to” products, value our experience and advice. When they call their bank they want to speak with their banker, so why should your client have to rely on a random stranger in a call center to answer their merchant bankcard questions?
A much “better way” starts with finding a merchant processing partner that will offer One on One relationships with you and with your clients…. instead of a 1-800 number with different operators every time a question or a need for service arises. Dedicated representatives always better understand the needs of both the bank and its merchants. They will, more than any other single step, greatly improve customer retention and loyalty. Coupling this higher level of service with very competitive pricing and transparent billing practices will go a long way in helping processors maintain extremely low attrition rates, as well as help increase long term growth. It all comes down to having the right people in the right place.
Unfortunately, merchant services as an industry has a lot to overcome. It has caused a bad taste for lots of banks and merchants. Dishonest salespeople, unfulfilled promises, unmet expectations and shady billing practices have all contributed to the lack of trust between banks, merchants and their processors. Also unfortunately, it is common for large merchant processors to operate similarly. They start off by giving merchants a reasonable rate and promise them excellent customer service. However, shortly thereafter, they gradually hike their rates up hoping that the increases won’t be noticed. If the game of increasing prices is noticed, they make it extra hard to get answers so that many of the busy merchants do in fact give up even trying. And of course the promised “great service” becomes a 1 800 call center with a different person on every call.
To meet today’s merchant processing needs for the extra measure of personal service, a new concept of “boutique merchant service providers” has developed. Many of the giant merchant processors still remain stuck in their 1-800 “you're just a number” ways. Needless to say they make easy targets for the new boutique processors, who now have access to the exact same technologies as the big processors do. The boutique processors win competitions almost every time once community bankers understand how all of their clients will now be offered personal Relationship Managers. These Relationship Managers are proactive in reaching out to clients, particularly during the critical first year of a merchant being a new client ….with its predictable extra number of questions. It takes more time and expense on the processor’s end but it is a good long term investment for all parties concerned.
Another one of the most important advantages of dedicated “reps” providing great service is that it promotes more referrals, both new customers for the bank and new customers for the merchant processor. Very simply, extra referrals start happening when your bank’s merchant services partner provides the same high levels of personal service that community banks are already practicing today to remain competitive.
About Winstar Payments: Winstar is a Tampa Florida based boutique merchant processing company which is a super ISO with many services for its customers. In addition to dedicated rep’s for all of its customers, Winstar offers many other programs to assist its community bank partners including gift card and loyalty card programs, commercial leasing services, asset based lending and confidential consulting services regarding issuing bank credit card profitability. Clay Wilkinson is the SVP and National Sales Manager at Winstar Payments. His experience includes being part of the original team for a startup boutique processor from start up to its sale to a major financial institution. Its biggest secret was its focus on dedicated rep’s and specializing in the needs of community banks. He has also worked for one of the largest processors in the world and therefore also knows the limitations of giant processors on a first hand basis. Robert Winokur is the CEO of Winstar Payments. He has worked for and been a senior executive with 2 of the largest processors in the country and has been an executive for one of the largest bank’s merchant processing department. Rob has managed both small and very large accounts, with annual sales ranging from under 100 thousand to over 100 million dollars.