Expect Payment Solutions: Putting a new face on merchant services

Vancouver-based merchant services company finds success in tailored solutions for clients

Derek Garvin

What do you do if you want to own a business in an industry that, overall, has a somewhat spotty reputation for poor customer service? If you’re Derek Garvin, CEO and president of Expect Payment Solutions LLC, you start a merchant services company based on the core value of “treat people in the way they want to be treated.”

Garvin’s company helps businesses set up the ability to accept electronic transactions, whether that is credit and debit cards, gift cards, mobile payment solutions, an online shopping cart, a stand-alone terminal or a full-fledged point-of-sale (POS) system.

Garvin said that his sales representatives meet with each client to see what their specific needs are, such as how often they take cards and the average transaction amount. A detailed questionnaire helps define these details and enables Expect Payment Solutions to propose a tailored solution instead of a generic program. This approach, said Garvin, enables his company to keep transaction and other fees as low as possible.

“We want to be able to look [our customers] in the eye and say, ‘we saved you money’ and get referrals,” said Garvin. “We’ll get them going or save them money based on where they’re at.”

Unlike some merchant services companies, Garvin explained, Expect Payment Solutions uses the same markup on transactions, whether a merchant processes $7,500 per year or $75,000.

“We’re looking for longevity,” said Garvin. “Our industry doesn’t have the best reputation, and we’re looking to buck the mold.”

Garvin’s background includes working in customer service for the M&M Mars Company. In 2007, he and a partner started Expect Payment Solutions “out of the bedroom” and slowly added sales reps. Garvin, who recently bought out his partner, said the company has grown steadily over the last eight years. In fact, the company has been named one of the 100 fastest growing companies by the Portland Business Journal two years in a row, and was number 2,398 on the Inc. 5000 list this year.

Garvin said his goal is to keep company growth at 20 to 25 percent growth annually – although this year it has been about 32 percent.

“If you grow too quickly you’ll have to give up some areas, and I didn’t want to see that happen,” explained Garvin. “We add people as we feel can – we won’t add 10 sales people without adding customer service people.”

90 percent of Expect Payment Solutions’ customer base is in Washington and Oregon. The proximity of his customers, said Garvin, helps him meet regularly with them, and also to provide personal training to his sales reps.

“A lot of companies jump out of the gate to go nationwide,” Garvin said. “We’ll probably branch out – if it’s in the cards,” but he said he won’t pursue expansion too quickly.

One area of focus for the company currently is the nationwide push for Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) compliance for machines that process credit and debit card transactions. EMV is a global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards (IC cards or “chip cards”) and IC card-capable POS terminals and ATMs. President Obama recently signed the “BuySecure” initiative to speed EMV adoption in the U.S., which is the last “Group of 20 (G20)” country to adopt EMV.

Garvin said that his company is encouraging merchants to lease EMV-compliant equipment, or to reprogram existing equipment, because he expects EMV compliance to be required by October 2015.

“If you have outdated machines,” warned Garvin, “other companies won’t work with you.”

Besides a passion for customer service, Garvin said another differentiator for his company is the fact that all his sales reps are employees of his company. According to Garvin, the majority of merchant services companies – perhaps as much as 97 percent – pay their sales reps as contractors.

“We want our sales reps to look at us as a landing place, not a stepping stone,” said Garvin.

He said he tries to foster a family-type atmosphere, where employees feel welcome and feel “like they’re heard.” With 22 employees currently, he said his company sponsors a lot of company-wide functions such as entire-staff luncheons and a Halloween party.

He also offers benefits such as a 401(k) program and payment of 60 percent of health premiums – and is in the process of offering profit sharing.

“We’re proud we can do offer these types of benefits,” said Garvin. “It’s a sign to the merchants that the sales rep isn’t just going to disappear after the sale.”

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Jodie Gilmore’s journalistic background includes more than 15 years of writing for the Vancouver Business Journal as well as other publications such as Northwest Women’s Journal, North Bank Magazine, American Builders Quarterly and The New American. A Master’s in Technical & Professional Writing and 20+ years in the trenches as a technical writer and online help developer round out her writing background. When not writing, she enjoys gardening and working on her small farm in the Cascade foothills.