The days of selecting an ISO based solely on price are long gone. Merchants now use tools such as Web forums, Internet search engines and network rings to research ISOs.
Once merchants collect data, they choose an ISO that gives them the most bang for their buck as well as provides the support and services desired.
A similar process exists for merchant level salespeople (MLSs) searching for an ISO. Those who study the market and educate themselves about their options find they do not have to make decisions based only on financial considerations. Revenue splits, training, support, longevity and flexibility are all factors that help MLSs differentiate one ISO from another.
U.S. Merchant Systems knows MLSs and merchants are going to great lengths to find quality ISOs, and it strives to exceed their expectations at every touch point, no matter how small or routine.
The company has endeavored to create an MLS program that does more than offer earnings potential. Through a combination of coaching and mentoring, varied suite of products, and generous residuals, USMS creates and nurtures valuable MLS relationships.
"We have always believed that maintaining our relationship with the agent is our most important company initiative," said Matt Nern, President and Chief Operating Officer of USMS.
Reputation can attract MLSs and merchants to ISOs just as easily as it can deter them. Image in the payments industry often makes the difference between acquiring new partners or obtaining repeat business and getting no business at all. USMS hopes its longevity entices MLSs and merchants.
"We've been around for 15 years and have an outstanding reputation both in the merchant space as well as the agent/ISO arena," Nern said. "We've processed transactions for over 90,000 merchants. With that kind of history and track record why wouldn't you process with USMS?" Fresh face value With just $1,000 available to fulfill their dream of becoming merchant account providers, Stu Rosenbaum, Larry Cohen and Rusty Fenn founded USMS in 1992. Today, the billion dollar processor employs approximately 75 people and works with nearly 500 agents nationwide in regional offices throughout the United States.
In May 2007, Rosenbaum, Chief Executive Officer, promoted Nern to President. Nern is armed with enthusiasm and extensive sales experience. "I have a real empathy for salespeople in general," Nern said.
When Nern came on board, he "wanted to revitalize and refocus the company." Although business was good, Nern wanted it to move in a "sales agent friendly" direction and enhance service.
To meet those goals, Nern made some additions to the management team to include: Ted Lasch, Senior Vice President of Sales; Soltan Nayabkhil, Vice President of Operations; and Gary Breeds, National Sales Director.
USMS is already reaping the benefits of having a new executive team. "We are having our most profitable year in a decade," Nern said. "It goes hand in hand with the changes we made. I came in and wanted to shake things up."
USMS focuses on team efforts; everyone is working toward the same goal. According to Nern, there isn't a definitive line between sales staff and management. "Agents don't have to go through channels," he said. "They can go to Stu, Ted, me. We are openly available to make sales. We are all salespeople first and foremost." Strength in training USMS's mission is to "provide merchants and agents with payment solutions and service beyond their expectations." The executive team worked its way up the chain of command through sales and believes that teaching staff the ins and outs of the payments business is paramount.
"Training is at the forefront – that is different from our competitors," Nern said. "We believe we need to empower guys to go out and sell based upon value."
USMS offers MLSs free online training through USMS University, a program tailored to introduce novices to the payments industry and groom them to be fully trained agents. "It's a fairly robust Web-based system," Nern said.
The program, up and running since January 2008, is a "tool to really empower these guys to make a buck," Nern said. The program is an extremely important part of USMS' livelihood, since it places emphasis on learning and being experienced.
Training includes not only industry education, but also personal skills development and business tools. MLSs work with USMS to identify individual goals.
The company provides education about the history of the payment processing industry, as well as the basics of underwriting and risk management, processing fees and rates, equipment purchasing and leasing, and gift card programs.
"Some people in the industry were tainted based upon the commoditization of the industry, giving away terminals and so forth," Nern said. "We wanted to go back and teach how to effectively sell."
Nern and his team have placed priority on setting aside time to conduct necessary training. "We will do whatever it takes as far as going to their location or to ours," he said. "We have online courses, webinars and conference calls. Anything to empower our guys, we are going to do."
Since its implementation, Nern said the program has received "overwhelming feedback" from not only USMS MLSs who have been with the company for some time, but also those new to the company.
USMS strives to maintain a pleasurable environment for MLSs to work in. "If we provide the means to continuously make it easier for them to sell, then naturally, they'll sell more and be happier," he said. Benefits and attractions The solutions USMS provides include credit, debit and automated teller machine card processing, electronic check processing, check guarantee, electronic benefits transfer, and gift card programs.
The company also offers terminal placement programs, online payment processing, Internet storefront programs, and specialized services such as merchant cash advance and same-as-cash financing plans.
USMS believes that in addition to offering low rates, the company creates other ways to attract MLSs and merchants. "We offer unparalleled support and many alternatives to selling only rate," Nern said. "We want to help agents make the most money they can, and we service their merchants with the utmost care."
Knowing that stellar customer service helps satisfy and educate customers and often keeps them coming back for more business, USMS has a fully staffed customer service department that is available to answer inquiries 24 hours a day.
This includes a customer retention manager whose main task is to retain merchant accounts. Customer service reps even call merchants on their birthdays to reinforce personal relationships. "Our merchants are not just numbers to us – they are people," Nern said.
Most people accept the adage, You can't have your cake and eat it too, as an inevitable factor in life. If merchants want a good price for a product, they may feel like they have to sacrifice quality or service to get it.
If they want personalized service, maybe they'll have to pay slightly more or wait longer. And some MLSs assume they can only provide part of every merchant's wish list when making a deal.
But USMS wants MLSs to enjoy baking the cake and devouring it. "We have the benefit of being large enough to offer pricing that is similar to the big boys while being small enough to tailor a program that meets the individual agent's needs," Nern said. Since it is privately held, Nern said USMS has more flexibility than some of its larger competitors, allowing the company to "turn on a dime for specific requests." USMS has an array of programs for individual agents and affiliate partners. The programs vary from one time commission payments to straight residual splits of up to 80 percent.
"We exclusively offer revenue share residual splits with our agents, as we feel this is the most profitable way for them to do business and it allows them to be ultracompetitive in the marketplace," Nern said.
USMS thinks of the residual split as a reward for commitment. "We want to make sure that agents who have been with us are awarded accordingly," Nern said. Also, if MLSs have an impressive portfolio and great sales skills, they will also receive the 80 percent split, he noted.
It's not just MLSs who have the opportunity to earn revenue – merchants can as well. USMS provides a finders fee to merchants who refer others. MLSs who simply wish to hand over a lead can also earn a finders fee; to receive their reward, they just need to provide a statement when the sale is completed.
Education enhances business practices across the board. Merchants can research ISOs and MLSs when trying to decide what services they want.
And MLSs can use educational opportunities to better themselves to become more marketable to merchants. So, if there are any MLSs out there who wouldn't mind learning a few more things, USMS is eager to teach.
"We want you to be an agent of ours," Nern said.
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National Sales Director
Phone: 800-655-8767, ext. 171
3125 Skyway Court
Fremont, CA 94539
Web site: www.usms.com