By Shannon Andrade, director or training, Merchant Warehouse
The Certified Payments Professional (CPP) Exam (a certification offered by the ETA) is quickly becoming a valued standard in the payments industry. Preparing for the CPP extends beyond the exam itself and presents industry leaders with the opportunity to deliver supplemental training and education not only to sales reps, but also to various team members throughout your organization.
When the CPP exam was introduced in 2011, one of our key objectives at Merchant Warehouse was to extend the opportunity to earn the CPP certification to as many eligible candidates as possible, from all departments, and not limit it to sales representatives. As the exam covers all areas, including Sales, Pricing and Interchange, Operations, Products and Solutions, Risk, and Compliance, our first step was to gather a team of in-house experts from these fields to design a curriculum that would cover the fundamentals of each topic. This collaborative effort resulted in an 80 plus page manual that could be easily adjusted with each testing cycle based on current events in the industry.
In regards to the content, our objective was to approach the subject matter as a high-level overview that would speak to a multitude of employees and cross all skill sets. We grouped employees from different departments within each training course. This encouraged collaboration among everyone and each candidate was able to provide their own insights and experiences to each topic.
We also took not the “what” but “why” approach to the analyzing potential exam questions and answers. Based on the sample test provided by the ETA, the majority of the questions were scenario-based, rather than just facts that could be studied repeatedly off of flash cards, so to speak. For example, when training candidates in the Risk segment, we trained candidates not only on what types of businesses have high chargeback ratios, but delved into why, and identified which factors played into those risks (i.e. a combination of credit, average ticket, monthly volume, longevity, business type, and merchant environment). When faced with a question that wasn’t specific to a merchant processing fact, but rather a situation a sales rep may face, the candidate was able to draw on this information to determine the best answer.
Aside from providing trainings on Sales, Operations, etc., we had one class solely dedicated to the “Approach to the Exam.” One of our in-house experts called it best when he dubbed it the “Merchant Advocate” approach-and that’s truly the core of the exam. With each question, what is in the best interest for the merchant? We instilled this mentality in every course we held.
This also covered how the test was administered so candidates knew what to expect going in. Fortunately, CastleWorldwide provides a sample test online so that candidates can familiarize themselves with the PC-based format of the exam. Another piece of advice that was helpful to candidates was to read each question two to three times before even looking at the answer set. Having taken the exam the first available date, we saw that it was easy to inadvertently provide an answer to something different from what was actually being asked.
It’s been years since many of the candidates (including myself) had taken any sort of exam! If one thing is certain, it’s that not only do students learn at different rates, but some people simply test well, and to others, tests present challenges, and that doesn’t necessarily change as we reach adulthood. To combat this, the ultimate goal is to instill confidence in candidates through these prep steps and encouragement.
Training for the CPP allowed us to introduce different perspectives between channels. For example, the merchant experience team could see more moving parts in sales, and vice versa. It emphasized assessing merchants’ needs and using a solution-based selling model. The ultimate value, however, was that it allowed us another chance to reinforce the shared philosophy between the ETA and Merchant Warehouse of transparency and merchant advocacy.