The evolving nature of payment technology has helped transform the businesses that champion and employ the technology. One company exemplifying this is Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions. Based in Texas since 1989, the company was first known as Delta Card Services Inc. before rebranding as Merchants' Choice Card Services; it assumed its current moniker in 2009.
Reflecting on the payments industry's changing dynamics, Todd Linden, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at MCPS, said, "We made the conscious decision to transition the company from what had been a very successful 20-year run as an agent-centric ISO model and transformed it into what I call a platform company, which a lot of people refer to as a super-ISO."
Linden said the company's platform is customized and features a wide array of products and services. The company's offerings are "structured and put together in favor of helping the entrepreneurial ISO owner grow their business and really be able to trust their business from an infrastructure perspective with us here at Merchants' Choice," he said.
He attributed part of that trust to MCPS' ongoing investment in its information technology environment, which is designed to ensure high-level data security for all clients.
With merchants now demanding greater transparency in the boarding process, MCPS has found that straightforward pricing and clearly stated value propositions are essential when negotiating with merchant prospects. "I think in order for us to be a successful platform company, we've got to be the ones that provide that kind of positioning to our ISOs so that they can be successful," Linden said.
In 2012, MCPS launched POS Partners, a joint venture designed to offer a consultative approach to selling POS solutions and related technology in nearly all retail vertical markets. Industry veteran Brian Smith, who serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of POS Partners, also presides over CRS Texas, a POS value-added reseller in the hospitality and retail sectors.
"We work with their [MCPS] ISOs and agents to help them deliver, deploy, sell and market POS technology and all of the other related technology pieces that coincide with the industry that we sell to," Smith said. "There are so many technology offerings today that there's kind of a myriad of products and services to pick and choose from." For example, a hospitality configuration might include a POS system, digital signing, security cameras and mobile ordering capabilities.
"We have a complete VAR strategy out there that's very comprehensive because POS Partners serves as a POS logistics company that supports our ISO channel," Linden said. He added that with this type of support, ISOs are now able to approach larger, more sophisticated merchants. "One of those big-box stores you go into and they have six or seven stations, and all of the POS apparatus," he said. "Now they don't have to be intimidated in that environment.
He also feels that MCPS' status as "a full-on POS logistics company" is advantageous to MCPS and its ISOs. "We can go out and get that into the hands of our ISO customers more quickly than they could do it without a POS company," he said.
Linden predicted mobile wallets loaded with features such as mobile marketing, social media and instant gratification discount programs will become standard and reach across all retail sectors.
"I think that the mobile market is moving upstream and the POS market is moving downstream, and essentially, at some point, it's going to be at the expense of terminal manufacturers," Linden said. "I think you're going to see everybody from bicycle stores to bakeries on a pared down POS offering."
Linden believes a few POS systems are going to "jump up to a wild level" of success.
"We've got to make sure that we're staying in front of that and we're vetting everything and packaging it correctly, so that an ISO and his downstream agents can almost literally pull it off a shelf and know how to position it in the market, how to sell it, how to board it, what to sell it against, how it's going to result in value to the merchant and to the sales group," he said.
MCPS has added significant resources in its product and project management departments, and the company's relationship management group collaborates closely with both teams to assess emerging trends witnessed by merchant level salespeople (MLSs) actively engaged in the field, Linden noted.
MCPS plans to launch a mobile payment product that will compete with other mobile tools in the small-business market.
"We really like the way we've positioned it because we think we're able to deliver a better mobile product with more of a true merchant relationship feel from the standpoint of volume and reporting and protections," Linden said, adding that it is also very easy to launch in terms of the underwriting process and the cost.
Entering the fourth quarter of 2012, MCPS was in the final stages of revamping its sales agent website to fully integrate with its customer relationship management (CRM) system. "What that will mean is that they can see any service request that their merchant has initiated or they have initiated, where it is in the process of being fulfilled and who has it," Linden stated.
He added that ISOs and MLSs can view merchant call center notes and immediately determine what has transpired.
"They have done a lot of upgrades over the past 12 months to the agent website, which seems to be giving us the level of information we need," said Harry Carter, President at MCPS of Florida. "I do a lot of my own customer service, my own retention, so we need access to that information rapidly, and the website gives you that information."
Linden said the CRM system contains adjustable dashboards for maximum flexibility. This means, for example, that whenever an ISO needs to change a business rule or the workings of a sales campaign involving a sales group and its associated merchants, the ISO can access and update the dashboard pertaining to the rule or group through the CRM system.
"We have branded groups out there and they have different retention rules, download templates, terminal preferences and ETFs, and all of that is in this dashboard," he noted.
Linden also pointed out that MCPS employs an Oracle platform. "We hang our agent site, our e-merchant site, our CRM tools and our internal systems that we use to service customers through an Oracle platform," he said.
"Then we use business intelligence tools for the outward facing sales group and, in some cases, the e-merchant support merchants.
"So the processor data is brought in as raw data and then we populate the service systems, the CRM tools and the agent site by virtue of the Oracle database."
In its evolving capacity, MCPS continues to work with ISOs and MLSs to custom design bundled solutions that appeal to a broad range of niche markets.
Agent benefits include compensation with bonus incentives, in-house underwriting, online applications, 24-hour approval in most cases, payment processing for all major card brands, 24/7 technical support, an agent website and one-stop shopping for numerous vertical market products and services.
Carter summed up his nearly decade-long relationship with MCPS by stating that "they work with you as a team. I've been in the industry about 14 years. I've been with them since 2003, and they're an excellent group to work with.
"They don't treat you like another number. They know who I am. They know who each agent is. They know them by first name. That's important."
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Senior Vice President of Sales