Understanding the value of connecting with customers and providing clear and transparent information about rates and fees is sometimes lost in the credit card processing industry.

Many processing companies are in different parts of the country from their merchants and can offer only long distance support. The advantage to having a local processor is that feeling of comfort they provide with clear explanations and solving any problem as quickly and easily as possible.

There is a rising trend in the credit card processing industry that might change the way industry does business. Local companies called mini ISOs (independent sales offices) that provide service locally are becoming more prevalent.

Part of the reason is most merchants become fed up with the constant barrage of telemarketing from distant processing companies that promise lower rates and a representative in the area.

This does in fact make it harder for the local processor to gain access and trust with merchants, since merchants hear the constant pitch of lower rates and saving money every day.

Many merchants are now seeing the value in doing business locally when it comes to terminal support and understanding what they are paying for.

PCI compliance is a great example. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) was launched Sept. 7, 2006, to manage the ongoing evolution of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards, with focus on improving payment account security throughout the transaction process.

There is a form to be filled out annually to become compliant. If merchants fail to fill out the form (which takes about 5 minutes online) they get charged a fee of up to $30 a month.

Most local processing companies will point this out and even help the merchant fill out the form. Distant processors rarely care and will collect the monthly fee as long as no one questions it.

When credit card processing is handled locally, merchants have the comfort of knowing that the processing company has a stake in their reputation in the community. It is a tricky business that few people understand.

Locally owned and operated ISO’s can present fresh, upfront, face to face, customer service that the large national companies can’t. That is why the trend in merchants knowing and trusting local credit card processing companies is growing.

Michael Novitski is director of sales and marketing for Merchant Service Center of Hilton Head Island. www.mschhi.com