American Express Co. is going green, offering external sales agents anytime, online access to sales tools, rules information and other assistance. The company's latest communications tool - ESA.Amex360.com - is a one-stop Web shop for the most up-to-date information for agents who sell and service AmEx.
Soon, merchant level salespeople (MLSs) selling AmEx acceptance will be able to access the most current policies, alerts, and training and sales tools simply by logging on at www.esa.amex360.com. (ESA is AmEx lingo for external sales agents.) A spokesperson for AmEx said the Web site is expected to be live at the end of April.
Until now, AmEx has taken a piecemeal approach to communications with outside agents, using brochures, handbooks, e-mail and snail mail, among other techniques. Not only was that approach costly (printed handbooks and brochures had to be warehoused, for example), but preprinted information is time-sensitive.
"There were problems with version control," said Michele Fischthal, a senior marketing manager at AmEx.
ESA.Amex360.com "allows us to get the latest pricing information out to our ESAs in a timely manner," she said. "We wanted to be able to provide folks with a single resource." She added that the company intends to evolve the Web portal as new tools and services emerge. "It gives us an advantage in terms of speed to market," she said.
ESA.Amex360.com hones in on five areas of interest to ESAs, MLSs and their partners:
Payments industry consultant Paul Martaus believes this new service is a major benefit to MLSs. He said it appears to be the first time a card brand has made everything readily accessible - from rules to tools - in one place. "If it's as good as it sounds, it's better than anything Visa or MasterCard have," Martaus said.
ESA.Amex360.com is the second step taken by AmEx in the past few years toward making it easier for ISOs and MLSs to sell, and for merchants to accept, AmEx.
In 2007, the card company launched a program that allows merchant acquirers and their sales partners to offer qualifying merchants an all-in-one acceptance service package, in effect rolling up AmEx acceptance with Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide acceptance. Known as AmEx OnePoint, the program is available through several leading acquirers, including First Data Corp. and Elavon Inc.
Prior to OnePoint many merchants (especially mom-and-pop shops) wanting to accept AmEx in addition to MasterCard and Visa had to complete separate applications and deal with different customer service reps; there were no options for all-in-one billing statements.
OnePoint "eliminates the complexities businesses face when dealing with multiple providers and expands payment choices for consumers," is the way Elavon Chief Executive Officer Stuart Harvey put it in a statement when Elavon signed on as a OnePoint partner.
Discover supports a program that works similarly and reports dozens of acquirers are now onboard.
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