Telecommunications companies bundle services so consumers can deal with one company (and one bill) for land line, cell phone, cable and Internet services. Many retailers nationwide sell everything from clothes to groceries to car parts under one roof. And convenience-hungry consumers now want the same comprehensive services for payment options at the POS.
Providing multiple payment options for shoppers is a way for merchants to increase customer loyalty. And ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who can facilitate this can likely increase their merchant account retention.
But the feet on the street and their merchant customers are also looking for convenience. Who wants to deal with multiple banks, ISOs and software companies?
Vision Payments Solutions LLC, a registered ISO with HSBC Bank USA N.A. that specializes in flexible hardware, software and e-commerce solutions, believes its all-in-one payment station makes that question moot.
VPS OnePay is an integrated business payment solution with touch-screen interface, Web-based management, real-time online reports, inventory and sales control, card processing and a cash drawer all in one.
VPS, which provides a host of services to a wide range of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar merchants, was founded nearly six years ago by Eric Hannelius and Thomas Stone.
Hannelius, VPS' President and Chief Executive Officer, has years of experience in electronic banking. His background includes a stint as entrepreneur in residence for General Catalyst Partners, a venture capital and management company.
He also served as Senior Vice President at three Boston-based financial institutions.
Stone, VPS' Chief Operating Officer, previously served in executive management positions in global sales, marketing and operations in multiple industries that serve the financial services, telecommunications and consumer markets.
"I worked in merchant processing, credit card issuance, ATMs, everything that had to do with electronic banking," Hannelius said.
"Tom has a strong background in overall sales and marketing, so between the two of us we bring a unique operations, sales and marketing experience to Vision Payments."
Both founders believe Stone's expertise in sales and marketing and Hannelius' banking experience have been a winning combination.
VPS works with small banks that aren't interested in doing their own credit and debit card processing. VPS has enjoyed referrals through this and many more channels, including software integration.
"We are finding that our e-commerce channel is growing, as is our value added reseller business channel," Stone said.
"And we've been fortunate to have a valued resource in the smaller card processors who refer others to us on a regular basis, and that's how we've grown our business the past few years."
E-commerce is growing in the United States, and VPS is growing with it. In that regard, Stone believes the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard works in VPS' favor because the increased focus on data security gives merchants more reason to examine how they're accepting payments – even if they're already involved in e-commerce.
For merchants who don't have a virtual credit and debit card processing terminal built into their business software, VPS works with Authorize.net or another gateway provider, using the gateway's application to integrate a virtual terminal.
VPS' virtual terminals feature four-second transactions, level 2 data handling, automated recurring payments, address verification service and Card Verification Value 2 support.
VPS provides the debit and credit card processing, customer service and support for e-commerce merchants and gains referrals from software partners along the way. VPS offers a 30 percent split of all merchant referral profits to its Web host, Internet service provider and merchant association partners.
Hannelius is constantly amazed by companies still offering free terminals as a marketing strategy for today's savvy merchants.
"Ultimately, the equipment is not free," he said. VPS doesn't claim something is free when it isn't. Rather, it offers 24/7/365 customer support.
"Personal attention is absolutely key," Hannelius said. "To a large degree we are selling a commodity, and in the commodity business you differentiate yourself with service."
Stone emphasized the importance of tending to customers' needs after the sale. To that end, the company is ramping up its customer service even more, taking a proactive approach, updating merchants personally with phone calls and direct mail.
"Our reps and ISOs are out there working on new business and can't possibly cover as much ground as they'd like in terms of their customer contact," he said.
Hannelius said he and Stone take a personal approach to hiring, conducting one-on-one interviews with each prospective agent, whether they are looking for a career change or a company with a strong economic model and a broad spectrum of merchant services.
"We are very proud of who we are, and the fact that you have the ability to speak on a one-on-one basis with both of the owners is very important," Hannelius said.
According to Stone, many new MLSs are people coming from commission-based industries like mortgage brokers. They see the payments industry as a lucrative opportunity and a good fit.
To assist new MLSs, VPS has an in-house training suite that provides agents with an introduction to the industry and teaches them interchange, risk assessment and established payment sales methods.
"You never really know who is going to be a success in the business," Stone said.
"We've been surprised from people who may have been a little shy to get into it and then all of a sudden realize that it's an industry where they can do tremendously well and actually enjoy themselves doing it."
VPS is enthusiastic about the future of payments and is investing heavily in new, fully functional touch screen POS systems.
"From an evolution standpoint we never got into the free equipment business, because, first of all, nothing is free," Hannelius said.
"And the comprehensive POS systems today, especially for smaller merchants, have come a long way since the original Verifone Zon XL."
The company is also expanding its footprint in some newer technologies that are slowly but consistently gaining momentum in the payments space: pay-at-the-table and remote deposit capture (RDC). And VPS realizes that RDC has huge potential, especially in the business-to-business market.
"We recognize this as an important item we should have as part of our sales tool kit," said Stone.
"We are involved in both areas and I do see those technologies taking off," he added.
"Both products are very merchant and customer friendly and, to their credit, our MLS channel has been a big part in helping us increase our sales in that area as we move forward."
Hannelius said VPS is proud of its sales reps and the company's high degree of integrity.
"That's usually the first discussion we have with any prospective sales agents: We do the right thing and don't know how to do the wrong thing," he said.
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Chief Operating Officer
Business Development and Operations
Phone: 877-674-2286, Ext. 102
509 Forest Ave.
Portland, Maine 04101
Fax: 207-321-3427 or 866-304-1406
Web site: www.visionpayments.com