When Christopher "Chris" Kittler founded Bozeman, Mont.-based Frontline Processing Corp. in 1997, he adopted organizational values based on his experience as a merchant level salesperson (MLS). Since then, Frontline has earned the trust of merchants from multiple sectors supported by a customer service team tasked with answering calls within three rings.
"We serve thousands of merchants," said Kittler, owner and Chief Executive Officer at Frontline. "We're constantly looking at improvements and new verticals for their viability. It comes down to handling your customers' issues and being a merchant advocate and understanding full well that when a merchant has an issue, it's probably a pretty critical issue."
Adding a personal touch, Frontline gets to know merchants on a first-name basis, he said, noting that his company also provides free equipment, informational services, free online card deposit, online chat and chargeback notification, in addition to free access to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard certification. To keep merchants informed, Frontline issues monthly newsletters covering such topics as fraud risk, payments industry news and product information.
The company offers a spectrum of programs geared toward fundraising, referrals, community banks and convenience fee-based businesses, as well as traditional and omnichannel clients. Advanced POS systems, gateways, merchant cash advance, check processing, gift and loyalty programs, mobile payment acceptance, and credit and debit card processing are included in its extensive suite.
While much of Frontline's business is focused on physical retail locations, the company accepts what some consider high-risk merchants: online merchants operating in card-not-present environments. "I have 20 years' experience managing these businesses and making suggestions for their business model that really reduce their chargebacks and help them grow their business," Kittler said.
For Kittler, it all boils down to having a discussion with the merchant about his or her business model to ensure it is being managed in accordance with card brand rules. "I've taken a lot of merchants that started out with me doing $5,000 a month and, within two or three years, they were doing half a million to $1 million a month," he said.
As a former MLS, he understands the agent perspective and strives for flexibility since no two portfolios are alike. For example, if an MLS is unable to place a new merchant with an existing processor, Frontline can usually accept that business either on a one-off basis or as a group, depending on the agent's business needs.
Agents also receive top priority at Frontline. "I understand what the agents' world looks like, and the fact is that agents put a lot of hours into an application before they submit it," Kittler said. "We make the difference there. It shouldn't be looked at as just another application." For brick-and-mortar retailers, turnaround happens "automatically, same day, we spit out an MID, and card-not-present, 48 hours," he noted.
Kittler encourages MLSs to send one or two deals to Frontline to determine whether it's a good fit. "There's no all-or-nothing commitment here," he said. "We want to earn your business. We don't charge our merchants termination fees, and we don't charge our agents either. If agents send us one account, it's lifetime."
In addition to having live customer support teams at the ready, Frontline's corporate headquarters house underwriting, risk management, IT and legal departments that all readily assist merchants and agents. Longevity may be in the cards for Frontline, too, as the second generation of Kittler's family takes on critical roles, such running the IT department, which his eldest son is actively involved in today.
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, through the end of 2017 Frontline is offering monthly promotions that allow MLSs to qualify for bonuses and prize drawings, which may include a vacation stay at Kittler's beach house in Kauai, a destination he enjoys sharing with agents.
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