Signature Card Services, a Los Angeles-based independent sales organization, is making sure its sales agents and merchants understand the benefits of EMV chip cards.

Those benefits include greater security than with the magnetic-stripe cards still used by just about every cardholder in the United States and an easier path to complying with the Payment Card Industry data security standards, says Anthony Urquidez, the company's vice president of operations.

Signature Card Services is working proactively to disseminate that message to the 20 sales agents based in the corporate office and the 300 or so active independent agents who work with the company across the country, he says.

The company has bombarded internal and external agents with the message during a Web seminar three months ago, via email alerts, in postings on the site dedicated to the company's agents and in the company's monthly newsletter, Urquidez says. Another Web seminar is coming soon, he adds.

Further, the reps on a 20-member call-center team dedicated to helping agents are well-versed in EMV and can pass that information along, he notes, adding that EMV questions that agents ask those reps give the company an idea of how well the sales staff understands EMV.

"They are able to speak about EMV if there's any confusion regarding the initiative and why it's important for a merchant to migrate to EMV-capable terminals," Urquidez says.

Training the support staff presented a challenge, but the ISO has a dedicated trainer who took on that task. He's been with company almost from its inception in 1997.

"We have a support person on staff at all times," he says of the training director. "So, there's ongoing training with respect to our service team as well as to the agent team."

Once the agents have mastered the intricacies of EMV, they can introduce the technology to merchants, Urquidez says.

Some have already started at Signature Card Services. "There have been quite a few conversations going on about EMV," he notes. "We have active agents that are definitely pushing EMV-capable terminals."

The ISO intends to convert 25% of its merchants to EMV-ready terminals by the middle of this year, Urquidez says. He hopes to reach 100% before then end of next year.

Merchants are catching onto the fact that liability for fraud shifts to them if the crime stems from a transaction with a chip card that's processed through a terminal that's not ready for EMV, he says.

Merchants are also finding out that PCI compliance becomes easier with EMV.

"The more we continue to remind them of the benefits of EMV, the more willing they are to go along with the change," Urquidez says. "In 2015, all merchants are going to be required to convert to EMV, so we want to stay ahead of the game." 

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