Simultaneously satisfying merchants and galvanizing sales agents in the fast-paced world of merchant acquiring can be arduous for ISOs. But customer relationship management (CRM) and sales automation tools exist that can help payment professionals do just that.
Since April 2000, Sacramento, Calif.-based POS Portal Inc. has striven to set new standards not only for the merchant acquisition and boarding process but also for the ongoing delivery of merchant services. Today, the company is proud to report its automated POS equipment deployment services and on-demand, cloud-based solutions have thus far enabled scores of ISOs to secure long-term relationships with agents and merchants - and thereby maximize the profitability of their merchant portfolios.
Two people who have been instrumental in POS Portal's development are co-founders Kent "Buzz" Stryker, the company's President and Chief Executive Officer, and J. Benjamin Smith, its Chief Information Officer. Stryker, with 20 years' prior sales and deployment services experience, meshed perfectly with Smith, who brought to the venture equal tenure in software development, forensics and information technology.
"Buzz did the sales aspect and had the vision of how he wanted the software solutions to look uniquely tailored to the acquiring industry, and Ben had the development talent," said Joe Villamil, Vice President, Business Development and Sales for POS Portal. "We entered deployment services, providing equipment and just-in-time deployment services to the acquiring industry.
"We've also been in the equipment wholesale business since inception, and we've been providing software solutions for our clients ... specifically sales automation and CRM applications for the merchant acquiring industry."
POS Portal operates two deployment facilities, one in Sacramento and the other in Louisville, Ky., and has the capacity to ship 6,000 orders daily. The company reportedly provides equipment deployment services to eight of the top 40 payment processors, who in turn serve the deployment needs of over 700,000 merchant locations nationwide.
According to Villamil, POS Portal serves everyone from Tier 1 acquirers to merchant level salespeople (MLSs). The company also has a niche providing equipment rentals "both in a white-label environment to our Tier 1 financial institution acquirers and a non-white-label solution that we provide to any ISO or MLS agent who would like to provide a rental opportunity in their portfolio," Villamil said.
To further advance the automation process, POS Portal released a free smart phone application that connects ISOs to POS Portal's Online Store. With POS Portal Mobile App (see "An app that could clench the deal," The Green Sheet, Feb. 28, 2011, issue 11:02:02), agents can view real-time pricing, check availability, and place orders for POS equipment and supplies.
The software side of POS Portal can be described as analogous to a large, professional software shop. "We have about 13 developers," Villamil said. He added that the company has distinct staff dedicated to information technology, quality assurance, project management and business management.
Scott Agatep, POS Portal Vice President, Product and Marketing, said the company's fleet of developers created its new platform, P2, which launched in 2010 and was built on Salesforce.com's web application platform, Force.com. "We're bringing a very modern, cloud-based CRM application that's preconfigured for the merchant acquiring industry," he noted.
Cincinnati-based merchant services provider Infintech LLC routinely boards 150 accounts each month and feels P2's CRM system has been essential in establishing the company as one of the area's fastest growing businesses.
"We're much more efficient, especially our tracking," said Joff Moine, Chief Operations Officer at Infintech. "We needed something that integrated with our call center along with our sales team and our management team - one interface that we could all look into and see real-time updates on client activity, tracking prospects, closed opportunities, things of that nature.
"This gave us that single-point solution that we were all able to interface with, and it's really made us a lot more efficient. We don't have things slipping through the cracks anymore."
Agatep pointed out that P2 is very much an end-to-end solution. He said it "goes all the way from a lead coming on the sales side and tracking all the activity around sales, through the back-office or application processing cycle of boarding that merchant and all the activities and statuses around that, to post-boarding activities of customer service, deployment, risk monitoring, chargeback management and all the post-boarding activities that an acquirer or ISO would need to do."
POS Portal indicated it is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliant, and all of its online P2 modules for ISO office functions, residual payout and risk management are supported by fully redundant data centers. "We have two data centers, so there's an option to house transaction data at POS Portal," Agatep said. "It's a product called Transaction Data Hosting and it delivers that transaction data through P2 to our customers.
"The product itself has the ability to support the larger acquirers as well as support the smaller independent sales organizations that maybe have four or five users and are building their portfolio over time." He added that with the hosting service, ISOs can stay connected with multiple payment processors and simultaneously house all data in a secure environment.
Another P2 module is the Residual Payout Engine, which allows ISOs to work with files from multiple processors. "The product enables them to upload all files into our system and not only calculate residuals for all of their sales agents, be it W-2 or 1099, but it also provides them profitability and analytics from a portfolio level so they can see their entire portfolio within our P2 solution," Villamil said. "Once an ISO has calculated residuals using the payout engine, they can post residuals to the sales portal so that 1099 sales agents can see their overall profitability and see how much they're being paid by the ISO."
The authenticated sales agent portal provides agents a quick overview of which merchants are processing payments and which ones are not, Villamil noted. He added that P2 also "enables the ISO office to attract more agents, get more business, because they have their brand front and center of the agents who are out there in the market.
"They are offering them a tool that allows them to manage their opportunities as well as provide them the ability to see their payouts all in one spot rather than creating emails and phone calls and other offline sorts of communication."
Brady Nash, CEO of BNG Holdings Inc., a North Dakota-based ISO, also relies on POS Portal. "I'm the CEO, but I'm also a sales guy at heart," he said. He feels POS Portal makes it easier "to work with someone, reach an agreement to get their business coming to us ... find what's going to work for them, whether it's lower rates, bonuses, high residual splits or free terminals, and really put together a package on a per case basis for the rep and still track it without any manual processes.
"Where I think a lot of companies really screw up is they don't give you the flexibility to control your compensation. [POS Portal's] CRM does a very good job of that, and what I mean by that is when you get income sources from different areas, there are certain things that ISOs want to be able to do."
Villamil offered an example of POS Portal's flexibility: ISOs working with referral partners to generate leads can have each partner enter leads directly into a referral partner portal. The partner can then track the status of each lead and monitor residual income through the system. "That's hard to come by in the industry, something that's affordable but yet is robust enough for people to use," Villamil said.
POS Portal also augments ISO residuals via online marketing. "[For] the large acquirer who we're co-branding, some email marketing goes out to their merchants, and then their merchants can order supplies and we'll fulfill the orders on their behalf," Villamil said. He added that residual income on each order is calculated and processed automatically.
"They get to know your business," said Moine of Infintech. "They flew out here, got to know us, got to know our salespeople, found out what we like to do, met with our call center, spent a lot of time with us getting to know our business and how we operate, especially in an industry where there are so many different ISOs.
"We all do things a little differently. They weren't trying to create a generic solution."
BNG's Nash agreed. "I work with a lot of different companies, and anytime there has ever been an issue or something needed to be fixed, they answer their phone, they answer their emails, and they work on it and let you know what's going on versus not believing you and not responding," he said.
Do problems arise? Sure. But POS Portal is "always working to make it better and they take our input, so that's pretty valuable," Nash said. "I really believe the CRM can manage your whole business. If that's not right, if your sales guys can't get accurate information, you're not going to keep your sales guys."
It appears POS Portal is in synch with its stated core mission: to provide exceptional service to the payments industry through partnership.
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Vice President, Business Development and Sales