On a fall trip to a Seattle-area corn maze with his son, Sean McGinn couldn’t help but notice that many of the merchants there were using Square to accept card payments. When McGinn bought tickets, he struck up a conversation with the person at the counter about Square and mentioned a similar product his company, FrontStream Payments Inc., has in the works.

“They said, ‘I love Square, but whenever I have a problem, there’s no one to talk to,’ ” says McGinn, vice president of operations for FrontStream, an independent sales organization based in Olympia, Wash.

Initially, McGinn wrote off the comment as one person’s opinion. Then, he went to another maze merchant who was using Square and heard the same complaint.

For McGinn, the experience highlighted the importance of ISOs and agents — giving merchants technical support whenever they need it — as opposed to a technology-based tool. It’s a lesson that’s taken on greater significance for him as FrontStream develops its own product to compete with Square.

“It’s called merchant services for a reason,” McGinn says. “You can provide a payment platform for merchants, but someone needs to service those merchants on a day-to-day basis.”

FrontStream’s yet-to-be-named product will attach to a mobile device and tie into the ISO’s payment platform. That will enable merchants to take and securely store information from cardholders. They can also mine the data for demographic information.

About a third of FrontStream’s clients process zero to $3,000 in transactions a month, McGinn says. Those are the clients FrontStream will pursue with its new product.

“The open-door policy that you have with a merchant is really important, and it shouldn’t be ignored,” McGinn says.

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