The cornerstone of Charge Card Systems Inc. is open and straightforward communication, according to Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Shavitz. He said that attribute is reinforced by top-flight technology that keeps all of the company's agents in the real-time loop.
"We provide back-end tracking, online portal and full transparency for our agents to see every piece of data on their residual," Shavitz said. "The whole story of why we're here is to enable our sales partners."
Founded in 2002 by Shavitz and two business partners, CCS has been a part of First Data Corp.'s President's Club for the past three years, having been recognized by that company as one of the top 14 ISOs in the country, Shavitz noted. CCS is also on the First Data Advisory Board, which consists of 14 ISOs invited by First Data to biannual meetings for discussion of the current payments marketplace. CCS also has relationships with international banks that enable it to pursue merchants worldwide. The company was purchased in 2012 by Financial Transaction Services Corp., which provided the technology for CCS' agent portal reporting platform. The web portal-based service allows contracts to be read and signed online, saving significant time and costs by avoiding the hassle of faxing paperwork back and forth, according to Shavitz.
"We can do online applications with an electronic signature by emailing the application to the merchant, and they sign it by signing their name on the keyboard," Shavitz said.
CCS' Internet-based application both expedites the process of boarding merchants and provides instant updates to assure agents that each step is properly handled and notated, stated Adam Moss, CCS' Chief Operating Officer. Every merchant level salesperson (MLS) is informed when the application is pending, when it was received, when the merchant is boarded and when the transactions happen, he added.
"If I'm an agent with a laptop who's in the field selling accounts, and I've got three or four appointments that day, then rather than hoping that everything's being taken care of on the back-end, you just receive an email on your smart phone that says, 'We got the application,' and later, 'It was approved' - and then, a couple hours later, the merchant gets the approval message as well," Moss said. "So the info gives the agent assurance that this merchant will be handled appropriately, that everything is going to the right people and that it's all being done expeditiously."
The agent portal also includes a ticketing system that notates and catalogs all communications, in detail, between CCS and its agents.
"Through our ticketing system we act on anything here - meaning a phone call comes in, or any email or communication, all of that is sent back and forth through our system for the agent to see," Moss said. "For example, 'Please lower the price on this merchant.' That email is sent to the appropriate department, and we act on that ticket and respond in kind. When we open a ticket it creates accountability on our end because it is time-stamped; you can see when the ticket was opened and closed, and when it was remedied."
Also, card payments are posted every day on the agent portal, and detailed monthly residual information is uploaded every time those payments go out, according to Moss. "The residuals are listed in line-item detail, so there is total transparency, and agents have complete confidence in getting paid correctly," he said, adding that the tracking system can include multiple levels of ISOs and agents and sub-ISOs and subagents.
In the same spirit of transparency, CCS runs free cost comparisons between its rates and those of any competitor, Moss stated. "Merchants become jaded because so many people make them promises that don't come to fruition," he said. "We try to do the opposite, to run an analysis and do a black-and-white comparison. More often than not, merchants are overpaying for their fees."
Shavitz agreed, adding, "We find that there are so many hidden fees and charges not carefully explained to merchants," he said. "We'll do a cost comparison to show how they can save money on interchange, or on downgrades or on ancillary fees."
Through a partnership with Trustwave, CCS runs Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard-compliance checks for merchants and provides assistance where needed, according to Moss. "We get monthly uploads from Trustwave telling us if a merchant is compliant or not, so we're able to inform them if they're not compliant and tell them what to do to become compliant," he said.
"We have a very merchant-friendly interface, called TrustKeeper, that provides a layman's way of going through the process."
Moss added that CCS performs its own underwriting and assumes liability for its merchant transactions, which affords the company more flexibility than having liability reside with an acquiring bank. "It allows us to assess each and every opportunity independently and with an open mind," he said.
CCS provides webinars to keep MLSs up to speed on new offerings, niche markets to target and broader industry developments. "We have anywhere from monthly to bi-monthly webinars to talk about our products," Shavitz said. "[T]here are so many people out there that go to merchants and make a lot of guarantees. So we want to make sure our agents try to empower and educate business owners and help them make the choice that's right for them. We tell our agents about hidden charges and extra basis points and things like that. We can't control everything they do, but we can educate them and help guide the process."
Shavitz pointed out that CCS provides uniquely tailored platforms for specific niches such as the medical billing, business-to-business (B2B), franchise and real estate markets. For example, CCS offers an electronic billing presentment tool that allows utility firms and other billing companies to provide online links via email for bill pay, instead of mailing out invoices, Shavitz noted. It also offers a product that helps medical offices improve cash flow and reduce receivables, he said.
"We really study interchange and understand the nuances of interchange," Shavitz added. "There are real opportunities in B2B and all these niche industries right now that the average person is not calling on. We're a very strong believer in using education to help target new markets. We'll help explain to agents what to do in a specific industry. So they might be targeting education, but maybe the schools they should look at aren't just [traditional] schools. They might be religious schools, or karate classes or something else. We help them find these different opportunities."
Dedicated relationship managers are on call to help MLSs, rather than the less personable and more bureaucratic 800-number help line, Shavitz noted. He said the company also offers local search engine optimization to help MLSs improve their rankings on Internet searches for credit card services in particular locales.
Robert Modliszewski is an MLS who has worked with CCS since 2005. "They were unbelievably patient with me in the beginning, and when I met them we talked about areas that would be a good fit for the background I had, and all of those areas really worked out for me," Modliszewski said. "They are continually improving their website and webinars, and keeping ahead of the curve as far as what's going on in our industry. They tell it as it is, and it's been a fabulous relationship."
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Chief Operating Officer
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