Merchant stress over the economy and financial difficulties in some cases are leading to "volatile" customer-service interactions, and they require sensitivity from independent sales organizations, according to industry professionals. "Their business is not as good as it had been in the past. They are stressed," says Debbie Bowles, a partner at Advanced Payment Solutions LLC, a Nashville, Tenn.-based ISO. Transaction volume has dropped roughly 15% from April 2008 to April 2009 among Advanced Payment's clients, says Bowles. When a merchant is stressed, their interactions with service providers "may be more volatile," she says. "We all have to be sensitive to how they are reacting" to their financial situations, says Bowles. When merchants are upset, it is important to let them express their concerns and not make them defensive, she says. ISOs also should exercise sensitivity when a merchant is going out of business, says Jimmy Shin, executive vice president of Applied Merchant Systems Inc., a Chicago-based ISO. "If there's a financially stressful situation for [merchants], it's not worth it for us to send collection agents after them for $150 to $300 in [contract] termination fees," says Shin, who lets customer-service representatives judge on a case-by-case basis whether to waive cancellation fees for merchants.

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