When Tom Epstein founded Franchise Payments Network (FPN) back in 2006, he was filling a void in the payment processing landscape. Through his previous experience at First Data, Epstein realized that franchisors and franchisees simply weren’t receiving a service that understood their particular needs; a service that he would soon provide to over 200 franchise brands, and counting.
“When you’re working for a huge, bureaucratic organization, it can be so big that it doesn’t have a good handle on the relationship level of payment processing,” explains Epstein. “In franchising, you have to be able to foster a great relationship with the franchisors, and the other suppliers in the industry. Your customer service and sales teams need to foster a great relationship with the franchisees, too.
“Everything that we’ve developed at FPN was developed around the franchise business model. If you’re a franchisee and you don’t have FPN there, then you’re doing payment processing through a large, bureaucratic organization. You call in to the customer service line, and first you’ll get bounced around a little bit. Then, when you do get to somebody, you have to explain who you are. The person on the other end of the line may not recognize that you’re part of a network, and so they ask you lots of irrelevant questions.
“With FPN, we’ve modeled everything so that if you’re a franchisee of a particular brand and you call in, we immediately know everything about you. Just mention the name of the brand that you’re with and we take it from there – we know what POS you’re on, what peripherals you’re using. We know a contact at that POS so we can call them for you and you don’t get bounced around. We also know the normal reasons why something might mess up in your system, and we can often walk you through 80 to 90 per cent of it and not have to even involve another vendor.
“We also know the pricing; exactly how you’re set up and what pricing you should have. We can readily see if something’s wrong and fix it. Nine times out of 10 it’s a one-call resolution, because we have the ability to know how you’re processing as a franchisee of a particular chain.
“And we care. We know that franchisees talk. If we take a franchisee of any brand and give them the runaround, we know that they’re going to talk to the other franchisees. We know that eventually they might talk to the franchisor and we could end up losing the entire chain. But that’s just never going to happen with us, because we do understand.”
EVOLUTIONS IN PAYMENT SYSTEMS
As with many aspects of the franchise industry, COVID-19 has accelerated changes in payment processing for all consumer-facing brands. Thankfully, FPN is there alongside its clients to help them update systems and make their POS models as streamlined and accessible as possible.
“Everything that we’ve developed at FPN was developed around the franchise business model”
“We’ve had a lot of interest from brands in creating their own mobile app, where the consumer can have their payment details saved to the app, or they just show a QR code at the POS and it hits their credit card – which is phenomenal,” explains Epstein.
“When you have an app on your phone and top it up for $50, you’ve already paid for the coffee in your mind. You might drive by two other coffee places to get to the one that you’ve prepaid at. When that balance gets down to $10 or so, it automatically tops up. It locks customers in from a loyalty perspective, and you’re reducing your transaction fees because your transaction is $50 at once with that top-up.”
POLLINATING THE MARKETPLACE
When it comes to increasing loyalty among franchise customers, FPN’s sister company, POLN8, should be any brand’s go-to supplier. It was created when Tom Epstein recognized that promoters of brands weren’t being as considered as detractors, and has since managed to boost customer frequency at franchise locations by 50 per cent for POLN8’s clients.
“We try to change consumer behavior to get them to come in more often and buy more. What we do is take a look at the normal metrics of a business. Let’s look at a sandwich shop: I know my typical customer comes in once a week for their sandwich, and their typical spend is $10 – how do I change that? If I just give them another sandwich after the 10th one, it doesn’t change the behavior and I’m just giving up part of my profitability. I’m losing 10 per cent on those sandwiches.
“We change that behavior by messaging that customer and setting automated triggers. So if you have some kind of special going on, you’re inviting that customer to come in and try that new salad or dessert. Get them to do something different; bring a friend, or a relative. Do these deals to get more people to come in.”
By rewarding loyalty in a much more active way than the typical ‘get your 10th product free’ method that most brands use, POLN8 has managed to create a 17 per cent ticked increase on purchases through clients that use its services. And with POLN8 and Franchise Payments Network working side-by-side, a franchise brand is guaranteed to not just attract new customers, but keep them coming back time and time again.
AT A GLANCE FRANCHISE PAYMENTS NETWORK & POLN8
Contact: Tom Epstein, firstname.lastname@example.org