Jeff Shavitz, ToolBox Go

What a crazy and unprecedented few months, which of course, is an understatement. Unless your company is Zoom, Peleton or few others, this pandemic has created significant issues on your merchants’ finances, profitability and caused CEOs and CFOs to evaluate their credit card processing programs. Some companies in the beginning months of the virus dropped to literally $0 in sales; merchant statements that were “hiding” monthly and PCI fees became more transparent to the finance teams.

While merchants’ earnings are being severely affected by decreased spending — so are ours, whether we are the processor, ISO and/or agent. Overall, portfolio valuations have dropped significantly. Some ISOs and agents I’ve spoken with were down as much as 75 percent in March/April. Now many of my friends in the business are seeing their merchant portfolios rebound month over month.

How do we move forward in this unprecedented business environment? We must educate our merchants, continue to diversify our portfolios and offer a suite of processing options. How do we, as a company, strike a balance between safety and economic recovery with our sales teams and/or merchant base? One, our company and our people are now, like most of America, using the phone, Zoom, Webex, etc., for our meetings. The term “meeting,” which used to be thought of as a physical interaction between merchant and ISO/agent, is now virtual. In many ways, I think it has been beneficial in the time management sense; not wasting time driving to physical meetings has saved hours per week, adding more productivity to our busy schedules.

The economic and human impacts of recent months have been devastating. But rather than live in the past, let’s look forward. Let’s set the foundation for the coming months and years by embracing the technological changes in payments and the cultural evolution of our society. This is the time to reset, plan, educate and build. Now is the time to educate CEOs, CFOs and independent business owners on many evolving aspects of credit card processing that will help them save money and satisfy their customers’ desire for more technology-driven processing.

How have we as company worked within our community to give back? The quick answer is education. Our corporate culture and sales team are more than ever working to educate and share knowledge with our merchants. When was the last time our agents reached out proactively to speak to any existing merchant? Now is the time, especially because people have time to speak as most are still working from their home offices. Help them understand hidden processing fees, PCI, and how to combat phishing; set up an online portal if they don’t have one, and set up mobile payments via smartphone, among other options.

Put yourself in the shoes of business owners who are contending with staggering unemployment, PPP loan documents, rent due while businesses are closed, employees and family members falling ill, people’s spirits flagging under restricted contact, and more. And you want to sell credit card processing amid all of this? Yes. You won’t be foolish if you call with empathy and endeavor to teach and help find ways to evolve the merchant’s credit card processing.

Credit card transactions are not going away. However, the payments industry will be transformed by new consumer behaviors and new merchant processing trends. Stay on top of these trends. Speak to your merchants and get their feedback, and they will share information with you that addresses their concerns.

The guiding principle is the Golden Rule: treating others as you want to be treated. During this difficult time of the virus, it is best not to sell as you ordinarily would. Nobody wants to be aggressively sold when their companies are really hurting. Adapt, be respectful and aware of the new normal, and continue to educate, offer new opportunities and serve as a trusted resource for merchants. This is the only way to progress and create real value to ensure your merchants’ success as well as yours in the payments industry.

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