Netcom PaySystem prides itself on being as eager to practice good, old-fashioned customer care as it is to pioneer new products. The first inkling that this ISO has a decidedly personal slant on customer relations comes when you call the company's location in Roswell, Ga., and a live operator greets you. It's a pleasant departure from working your way through the gauntlet many corporate automated phone systems have become.
"If someone calls our office, he can have a live person talk to him from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day," said Bill Plummer, Netcom's Vice President of Product Development. "If it's a customer who calls in with an issue, we have a 24-hour rule: the customer will have a response within 24 hours, even if it's to say we're working on a solution. One way or another, the customer will know within a day what's going on."
Count among Netcom's happy customers Damian Hayes, owner of three restaurants in South Carolina: the British Open Pub in Hilton Head, another British Open Pub in Bluffton, and the Hidden Cypress Grille, also in Bluffton. Hayes has used Netcom's credit and gift card services for 13 years.
"Any time I've had a problem, it's been handled very efficiently and immediately taken care of," said Hayes. "The competition doesn't touch them in terms of rates and service." Hayes added that he has recommended Netcom's services to several other local restaurants and businesses, and all have remained customers.
Bill Plummer founded the company (under the name of Netcom Data Southern Corp.) in 1987 as an ISO specializing in payment services for both medium-sized merchants and national accounts.
"We learned the business from the ground up," Plummer said. "So has my son, Mike. He started working for me when he was 16 years old, downloading terminals, setting up terminals, delivering 'paper.' We got into the business for zero money and just grew from nothing."
Mike Plummer (who is not quoted in this profile) became President of Netcom in 2003 and still manages the day-to-day operations.
In 2008, United eSystems Inc., an electronic payment services provider, purchased Netcom, which became a wholly owned subsidiary. "I never really thought about selling the company, but United was a vendor, and we were selling the United check systems through our company," Plummer recalled. "We became one of their biggest sales agents. They just saw an opportunity to bring us in-house and let our product line grow with them."
The affiliation is mutually beneficial: "United has taken all of the accounting functions out of Netcom's hands and moved them to the processing center in Gulfport, Miss., and to our corporate headquarters in Covington, La.," Plummer said. "It allows us to concentrate on hiring, rolling out new programs and just being a marketing company, which is what we do best."
Netcom handles sales and marketing of all products; United is responsible for all check processing, as well as financial control and support. According to Plummer, United will soon offer publicly traded stock.
"Our latest and greatest product is our InStor Services, which includes Instor BillPay, Same Day BillPay, InStor Debit Loading, InStor Wireless Loading and AnyTime Money Orders, a revolutionary product that we are rolling out right now," Plummer said. "We're going to hit the market soon and give the money order business a run for its money. With Instor Services, including Anytime Money Orders, we're going after the underbanked or unbanked."
United's other relatively new product, ID CheX, allows for ID and age verification during check cashing, a capability particularly important for nightclubs, wine and tobacco Internet sales, rated entertainment, insurance companies, accountants, attorneys and banks.
"ID CheX is Homeland Security compliant. So if a business is classified as a money service business, ID CheX is a natural product for them," Plummer said. "It gives them OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] checking, and it does all the Homeland Security searches needed to ensure the person is not a terrorist and is not laundering money.
"We even have a hot button that gives the customer a Suspicious Activity Report that goes right to Homeland Security. No one else has a similar hot button."
According to Plummer, United's suite of products can be bundled and made live within 24 hours through the Mult_ePay Gateway Virtual Terminal. "I see the InStor Services and our own Mult_ePay Gateway product - the virtual products that can go on someone else's computer - as products that drive our other sales," Plummer said.
He added that Netcom endeavors to "grow into new products that are very accessible for our reps, easy to understand and that can be sold to the greatest spread of retailers in the marketplace. How nice it would be to walk into a shopping mall and be able to sell every door - accountant, attorney, doctor, dentist - no matter who it is."
While the variety of products helps Netcom meet a range of customer needs and remain competitive, Plummer emphasized that new product offerings "have to make sense in the mix we have. There are a whole lot of products out there, but if they don't help our reps, then they don't help us."
Plummer pointed out that Netcom takes support for its merchant level salespeople (MLSs) as seriously as it does customer support - throughout the life of the relationship. "When we hire someone, we try not to step on a territory," he said. "If it's a regional rep, we don't try to hire 12 people in that area all at the same time. We want to give a rep who intends to grow that area, or even perhaps wants to become a regional manager with us, that opportunity. All he has to do is show growth."
The company believes in targeted, customized training offered in manageable doses, particularly given the scope of its services. "If you bring a new rep in on Monday, and the following Tuesday you try to train him on six products, it's not going to work," Plummer explained. "We get the sales rep up and running first on the product that attracted him and let the other products roll in as he picks that up."
If training or customer support requires "face time" from Netcom, staff doesn't hesitate to head out into the field. "If, for example, a bank wants some attention and wants to see someone from our corporate office, we're there," Plummer said. "We'll go support any rep, anywhere. We also try to take as much of the load off our reps as we can with incidental problems so our reps can keep selling."
Plummer mentioned that Netcom also looks after MLSs' interests by guaranteeing long-term residuals. "If someone brings us a portfolio of accounts over a period of 10 years, we continually pay residuals to those reps, as long as they stay within the limits of our contract," Plummer said. "We want them secure in their equity because they've worked hard to get it."
Plummer seems to embody the company's equal penchant for conquering new markets and cultivating customer and sales rep loyalty. As Vice President of Product Development, he naturally waxes enthusiastic about the spectrum of services that United has either developed or represents, from card processing to bill payment options for those without checking accounts.
Plummer also pointed with pride to the company's success at retaining its merchant accounts: "Because of how good we are at maintaining our customers, we only lose 2 to 4 percent of our customer base per year, while a lot of other ISOs lose 14 to 15 percent of their business per year," he said. "If you're constantly selling to make yourself grow, and you have to sell 10 times the number of customers per month just to stay even, what have you gained?"
Perhaps it's no surprise then that you'll find phrases such as "let us unleash the power of technology for your business" and "customer happiness and maintenance is our cornerstone" seem to co-exist comfortably on Netcom's website. It reflects the happy marriage Netcom and United have embraced between "high-tech" and "high-touch" in their daily operations.
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Roswell, GA 30075