Free Tips for Merchant Circle about Customer Service

Filed in Local Search, Small Biz Marketing by Matt McGee on April 9, 2009 22 Comments

Merchant Circle needs some help, and even though they’re one of my least favorite companies, I’m gonna step up to the plate and offer it.

Last week, Merchant Circle employee Jennifer Roberts kindly left a comment on this blog, announcing their new “Contact Us” page. This is a Big Step for Merchant Circle because, in addition to their marketing tactics, Merchant Circle’s customer service (or lack thereof) has also angered small business owners. Here’s a selection from the 150+ comments on that original article:

  • One: “…there is no phone number, e-mail address or contact information posted anywhere on the site”
  • Two: “…no way to talk to a live person, and didn’t give a phone number to contact”
  • Three: “…no e-mail, office or address much less a phone”
  • Four: “They are impossible to get a hold of.”
  • Five: “…it is not easy to find any contact info on Merchantcircle website”

In her comment last week, Ms. Roberts touted Merchant Circle’s “free live chat” and “free self-service options,” and explained that there are also paid support options as well. But while the new Contact Us page is a step in the right direction, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Let’s take a look at this, shall we? And then I’ll offer some unsolicited advice to make things better.


Free Live Chat: The free live chat is available a total of three hours per week. Three. (And it’s after normal business hours for east coast businesses.)


Self-Service Options: There’s a mailing address below three links. The first link is only for existing members. The second link invites you to become a member. And the third link, which looks more promising, leads to a page with … oh, snap … a login for existing members or a “Join” link for non-members. “Self-Service” is a euphemism for “Join Merchant Circle.”

screenshotSmack dab in the center of the contact page is what you see in the screenshot at right. “Priority Support” and “Expedited Review Removal” — that sounds promising. People are coming to this page, often desperate to find a phone number or some way to contact Merchant Circle. And look, there’s a 900-number that I’d think a lot of business owners will call without bothering to click on the “Learn More” link. That’s a shame because that Learn More link has some very important information:


Yep, as soon as you place that call, there’s a $35 charge automatically added to your telephone bill. No credit card required. The 900 exchange is auto-billed.

Now, Merchant Circle would like us to believe that this is the best they can do. On that original “Contact Us” page, they say, “Just like you, we’re a small business as well.” Jennifer Roberts echoed that theme in her comment on this blog: “As a fast-growing startup with just 17 employees, we are working hard to support our 720,000 members while keeping most of our services free.”

It’s almost a guilt trip, isn’t it? We’re small like you. We face the same struggles you do with customer service. Except not many small businesses have received $10 million in funding from venture capitalists and Barry Diller’s IAC. And not many small businesses have followed links from the home pages of (PR9), (PR9), and (PR7).

With all that money and support, you’d think a little better customer service would be possible. And since I try to be helpful around here, here’s how I’d do it.

How to Improve Merchant Circle’s Customer Support

1.) Mix in an email address and/or contact form. No matter how busy you are, it’s unforgivable not to let people contact you easily by email. Small business owners are busy (as you should know, since you’re a small business, too). Many of them don’t have time during the day to worry about their Merchant Circle listing or that negative review on their profile. They’re dealing with this stuff at 10:00 p.m. They don’t expect to call you or use live chat at that hour, but they do expect to be able to email you. Tell them it may take five days to reply if you must, but at least put the option there.

2.) Make “self-service” mean “self-service.” Putting your mailing address under the Self-Service heading is good, but the links that encourage new sign-ups aren’t. Small business owners want answers, not a sales pitch. Move the Frequently Asked Questions material under this heading, and get rid of the links. That, combined with the mailing address, will suffice for “self-service” on this page.

3.) Announce the $35 fee sooner. If you really have to charge $35 for a phone call, you ought to mention that as soon as you show the phone number. Don’t make them click a “Learn More” button for such an important piece of information.

4.) Expand the live chat. I have my doubts that many people ever use live chat online, but as long as it’s part of the mix, make it look like you’re trying. Seriously, what’s going on at headquarters between 2-3 pm PT on Tuesdays and Thursdays to prevent you from offering live chat? Add that, at minimum, and you can promote it as “daily live chat.”

5.) Advertise your Twitter account. Twitter is one of the best customer service tools ever created. To your credit, you have a Twitter account, and back in February you seemed to be having conversations with other Twitter users — possibly small business owners. But there’s no mention of Twitter on the contact page. There should be.

Just adding a contact page was a big step. But I think with these changes in place, Merchant Circle will take a much bigger leap toward showing that they really are “working hard to support [their] members” … and non-members, too.

Comments (22)

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  1. Tim Andren says:

    Good points Matt. For every step Merchant Circle has taken to make sure search engine presence is top notch for small business marketing purposes, they’ve left the interactive, customer service part out almost entirely.

  2. Charles Loveless says:

    I found the same opportunities when trying to contact Merchant Circle. One of my customers had written a negative review concerning my company. We resolved it in full with the understanding that the homeowner would remove all negative comments and replace it with a positive review. The customer could not make any changes due to the format that Merchant Circle has created. Thus, the negative review is still on their site. I tried to contact a service representative at Merchant Circle and ran into the same deadend that you mentioned. This is impacting my business and leaves few if any alternatives.

  3. Dave Pechan says:

    I am sick of this website. They send me info to go to their website and see my account but the login does not recognize the e-mail address that I use and is our only address. No contact info to correct. What a bunch of loosers.

  4. I have been trying to contact Merchant Circle to change my user name to no avail. My search engine rankings are good, though.

  5. I “joined” merchant circle last week -spent a ton of time adding pics, editing the company infromation and created a coupon. I paid $99. to get the google search capability- YET, everytime I google our company name -NOTHING comes up, the only way I can view any of my hardwork is through Merchant Circle website directly- did I do something wrong? HELP- we all know I will never get anyone at M.C. to respond…

  6. I have taken every step possible to reach Merchant Circle to remove a review I posted on January 22, 2009. No response, my phone company does not allow 900 phone calls. I email and notified them via certified mail to remove the negetive review I gave The Lemaster Group after having a very good experience with the founder Lisa Lemaster. I have exhausted every avenue with no results. It appears that they use bad reviews to get new coustomers. Only the company
    who has been reviewed can remove the review and they must first open an account with Merchant Circle.
    As a result I’m closing my account and will not recommend this site to anyone.
    What a scam!
    Melinda Motschenbacher

  7. john reuter says:

    I dont know what the issue is I have a crack pot putting trash on my site and it seems to be good for me as I get click throughs all day long from people loooking for great used office furniture from Jack The Liquidator. All I can tell is that people know that there are crack pots out there and they feel sorry for Jack The Liquidator so the click through and become happy customers. What do we care it good business for us.

  8. Lana Dean says:

    You are not alone, I purchased the same $99 Local listing packing back in June and I have yet to see any results anywhere. I had to go onto all the search engines and add myself and never got my money back from them even after requesting it. Here was the answer I got:



    here is some information for you on Local Directory

    We received your email and I can help answer this question. This one time $99 Local Directory Service which nyou paaid for in June is for the submission of your business contact information to the local directories, mobile phones, and GPS systems. We submit the content and update any areas that have old information and also create new content on sites that don’t have your information. The actual time for this information to fully cycle through this process is 4-8 weeks. Don’t worry about what is reflected in your dashboard, since a lot of times we can’t extract all that data and reflect it in here. We do our best to accurately update this page in your dashboard, but the spiders that crawl the pages to make sure the content is updated and reflected in your dashboard get blocked a lot of the time. So even though you might show in your dashboard as not being listed on the certain sites, this is most likely not true. The best test is to simply look locally on one of the sites. Hope you are having a great week of business.

    I did a google search “internet video TX ” You came up third on google!……We did submit your information and your listing was updated on approx 30 sites.
    Jennifer Roberts

    201 Main St. Suite 100

    Los Altos, Ca 94022

    FAX: 650-9179972

    Follow us on Twitter:

    The Google Search that she brought up was one of the video sharing sites that we posted on, it had nothing to do with Merchant Circle doing what I paid them for. I checked Garmin & Onstar and they don’t have my information either so even though they show you certain sites you are SUPPOSED to be listed on for the money you spend. It is all bullshit! Notice there is no contact # on the email either. By the way I just got this response today, from months of asking for a refund, or chatting on their live chat. They still have no answers and can provide no links that show I am up from something they have done. By the way, it is a free service to get yourself listed on Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, BING, etc. Don’t pay a company to put you up there. I found out the hard way!

    Lana Dean

  9. Roy Wagner says:

    Merchant circle is a horror. How can I get them to delete my business from their website? They have the wrong address, the wrong map location and do not publish my websit. Of course, there is no way of contacting them.

    All I want is to be removed from their site. It’s hurting my business.

  10. mark taylor says:

    Merchant Circle is the absoulte worst. For over three months I have been trying to get them to correct the PHONE NUMBER AND ADDRESS which are BOTH wrong. Nothing, can’t reach MC and so frustrated. I have sent letter to the The Better Business Bureau and Congresswoman, Lois Capps trying to get this “business” to fix their errors…at least an email site so to communicate with them.

  11. Ann mcnabb says:

    This is not our address but this is the name of are business and our phone number…if this is not removed today you will be hearing from are lawyer. Our business is based on customer satisfaction. Paul’s professional tile is the name of our business. We are located at 5100 jewell terrace palm harbor. could someone there please help me on trying to remove law fictitious business located at…1404 Calvary Rd
    Holiday, FL 34691

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hi Ann – you’ll need to try contacting Merchant Circle for help with this. You’ve left a comment on my SEO blog, and I’m just a consultant who helps small businesses with their marketing. I have no affiliation whatsoever with Merchant Circle. Unfortunately, as the post above explains, contacting Merchant Circle is not easy to do. Best of luck getting things fixed. Please leave a follow-up comment and let us know how it goes.

  12. I just checked my listing and found they listed me at an address which was 6 years old, at another location 10 years old and yet another in a different town altogether. Someone is smoking something.

  13. M. L. DuVall says:

    I happen to be the unlucky person who inherited a phone number for my residence in 2001 that had belonged to a business that has been closed. As of 2011 they are still listed as a business on Merchant The business was a pool hall,needless to say calls used to come in the middle of the night. How slow do you have to be!!!! Come on merchant circle at least check please!! If you dare, answer me and I will tell you what business you need to delete, since you seem to have no idea how to do it yourselves. Learn to DO YOUR JOB………

  14. Walter Towle says:

    Merchants Circle needs to have a class action lawsuit filed against them.. Is their address a real location. Is there an actual office there? If someone on this board will verify this information as correct a class action suite would be easy to arrange.

  15. Patricia says:

    If I am not removed for emails I will contact the New York State Attorney General’s office and file a complaint ” REMOVE”

  16. Leah Kremer says:

    I did ask the ‘m c’ a several times to discontinue the service and stop billing my credit card. But no response was fallow my request.
    Should I just cancel the payment with my credit card !!???
    if I do not get any business from that service for several years, Why should I use it!!!???

  17. David Edward Guiher says:

    I was wondering how to delete a derogatory comment that was wrote back to me by a used car dealership that has my full name in it and has hateful comments?

  18. Fred Grange says:

    I keep getting spam email from I tried blocking it in Outlook but it still gets through. I then listed it as Spam but it still gets through. I searched my in box and discovered it is coming from Merchant Circle. I went to their website and found no way to contact them. I searched the internet and found this site. Unfortunately it is loaded with criticism of Merchant Circle, nothing positive. So I guess I will give up in frustration. If anyone wants to call me my number is area code four one five – four five six – two seven one two.. Fred Grange

  19. Kenny Mapes says:

    Here we are 4 years later and things have not changed at MerchantCircle regarding their Customer Service policies.I spent 3 years on MerchantCircle as a Member, Moderator, Community Leader, and UNPAID Customer Service rep assisting small business owners on how to use the site. Many of those hours were spent in the MerchantCircle community forums, or on the phone. There was never any charge for my time or service.

  20. Carrie Hancock says:

    My experience with Merchant Circle has been frustrating. Often, if business owners wanted to comment anywhere, even when the comment was marked anonymous, the information was published for all to see. There was no direct contact, and not personal. I have since talked to them by e-mail, but they did not resolve all issues. Last night, when I was attempting to fix some items, I was thrilled to see that Merchant Circle had Live Chat! The only problem, is the girl had no idea about any of my grievances, as she was only about sales! I agree, they have a great web presence, but some of the items that were once helpful to my business are now gone. This can be hurtful to many businesses, especially the small ones.

  21. Pat Chiappa says:

    I’m sick over a bogus bad review which prompted a prospective client to ask us about it. One one hand, I was glad to have found out about it, but now, I’m frustrated that I can’t remove it. The company info is completely incorrect as was the name of the person they trashed in the review. I want no part of Merchant Circle, but am torn between correcting the information so at least that is correct, but then how do I make the review disappear?

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