When you were a teen, your parents probably warned you about hanging out with the wrong crowd. They had a point: You are likely to be judged by the company you keep. Fortunately, the company you keep as an ISO or merchant level salesperson (MLS) can affect you in a positive way.
If you have high standards, it makes sense to work with like-minded people. Working with individuals who maintain ethical practices reinforces your own reputation.
National Bankcard Systems says it is staffed with the right crowd. A focus on customer service and flexibility has enabled the company to create long-term relationships with agents and merchants alike. NBS is interested in attracting MLSs who are committed to their merchants _ and this industry _ for the long run.
Kara Ireland, NBS Director of Business/Sales Development, said, "NBS strives to ensure customer satisfaction and service that is far above any other company in the industry. These ideals attribute to NBS' very low attrition rate and excellent overall customer satisfaction."
NBS provides merchant services to businesses of all sizes worldwide. Offerings include credit and debit card acceptance, check services, automated clearing house and bank drafting, gift cards, business credit cards, merchant funding, processing equipment, software and supplies.
The company was established in 1997 in San Antonio, Texas, by Penny Baker. She is now NBS' Chief Executive Officer. Within a year of its founding, Baker moved the company an hour north to Austin, Texas, where its 30 full-time employees currently work.
NBS also operates offices in several cities, including Denver; Crested Butte, Colo.; Houston; Little Rock, Ark.; Salt Lake City; San Diego; and Spokane, Wash.
NBS' achievements have been recognized by its peers and community. For three consecutive years (2001 to 2004) it was included on Inc. magazine's list of 500 fastest-growing businesses. In 2002, NBS ranked fourth in growth among private corporations in Austin's burgeoning entrepreneurial business community. Since 2000, NBS has recruited more than 600 outside sales agents. Ireland said the company is "absolutely" still recruiting agents. "Our agent program has grown by 25% in the past year, and we now have sales agents in every state in the U.S.," she said.
NBS' growth is dynamic. But the company is not looking for agents who will sign a couple of deals and then never contact those merchants again.
The most important things to NBS are its customers and agents. "Our customers make business possible for us and for our sales agents," Ireland said. "My main thing is making sure we attract the right agent. We would rather have someone who writes a few accounts, but good accounts, ... than someone looking for a quick buck."
NBS aims for longevity in all of its relationships and realizes some merchants and MLSs have been burned. Ireland said it is "sad" that her company must advertise customer service as much as it does.
"We strive to ensure that our prices are fair and that every customer is given the same support that we would want if we were in their position," she said. She has heard far too many horror stories from customers who were mistreated by other companies and avoids causing them any further dissatisfaction "at all costs."
NBS keeps in close contact with merchants and agents. "Our outside agents are part of our extended family," Ireland said, noting that she is the first to let agents know if they are doing something wrong or if something doesn't seem right. "We really don't have agents who try to cheat the system," she added.
Most NBS agents have been with the company for more than five years. Ireland said even when MLSs do leave, they often return. "I think it's because we just treat our agents like they were in our office face to face with us," she said. "They have just as much vested in our company as we do."
NBS operates on the principle that every business has unique requirements. For that reason, it is registered with four different sponsoring banks, and the company also has its own bank. These relationships enable NBS to meet the needs of virtually all merchants. "We have different banks to accommodate different kinds of business," Ireland said.
According to Ireland, any company can offer 24/7/365 support. NBS goes a step further by providing merchants with personal contacts. "We found this creates a much friendlier environment for our customer, and the entire support process becomes much more efficient," she said.
Additionally, in-house account managers provide merchants with their direct office phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Every agent also has a direct contact at NBS. "We are here not just to accept applications, but we train, support and work directly with our agents to make sure that their job is as easy as possible," Ireland said. "It is hard enough to sell merchant accounts; the last thing a sales agent should have to worry about is their processor."
NBS reps will talk with merchants on the phone and help perform rate analyses while MLSs in the field are preparing to close sales. "Agents fax us the rate analysis and we can close the deal right there," Ireland said. "I think that personal service is what makes us different."
The company provides MLSs one-on-one training, personal appointment setters, monthly newsletters and monthly sales contests. Bi-weekly, it hosts a live Web conference that includes a brief interactive training on an industry topic. The conference is recorded, so agents can view it at their convenience.
"Outside agents are the hardest-working people in payment processing, and ours have the tools and the continuous support they need to succeed," Ireland said.
NBS uses buy rates. Since it has relationships with five banks, MLSs choose which rate to use. "Every agent has complete control over the rates that they offer their customers, and the amount of money that they make on each account is determined by the price that they set," Ireland said.
Additionally, MLSs who sign accounts have two compensation options. They can either opt for cash upfront, or a 50/50 residual split. Agents choosing the upfront option receive compensation based on the merchants' expected processing.
Those selecting the residual split receive at least 50/50 over interchange processing costs. "We encourage our agents to take advantage of both programs," Ireland said. "The residual split is great for building a long-term income, while the pay-me-now program can create a cash flow from day one."
MLSs are free to make this choice account by account. "Every time an account is submitted, the agent has a choice on how they would like to be paid. No strings or red tape," Ireland said.
The company does not report residuals on its Web site because it works with multiple banks, and each institution has unique compliance issues and procedures. However, NBS does provide an itemized list of accounting with each payment check.
NBS has partnered with several companies to provide supplemental private-label services. MLSs can sell these services to earn additional income.
Services include a private-label MasterCard-branded business card in collaboration with General Electric Finance Corp. "That says a lot about us," Ireland said. "GE is the eighth-largest company in the world. They are not going to partner with just anyone."
NBS receives $100 for every approved GE card application. And it passes the full amount on to the agent. The company has also partnered with WAY Systems Inc. to offer wireless transaction processing. Ireland sees this as another "great alternative" for MLSs in the field.
In 2003, NBS launched a wholesale equipment Web site. Ireland said ethics is central to this program. "You don't buy a piece of equipment at cost for $200 and make $3,000 to $4,000 on it," she added.
MLSs can also earn income through NBS' bonus opportunities and sales contests. Ireland reported that some agents make $10,000 a month and more. "It's not that hard," she said. "You just have to be willing to invest time and energy."
NBS welcomes ethical, committed agents of all experience levels _ newbies to seasoned pros. "We are truly here to help every agent in any way possible," Ireland said. "At end of day, we are trying to help agents make a true and honest living."
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Director of Sales
Director of Business/Sales Development
2600 Via Fortuna
Suite 240, Building 1
Austin, TX 78746
Web site: www.enbs.com