High Risk Tech Support Merchant Accounts:
Voted the #1 High Risk Processor for the last three years, Soar Payments is laser focused on serving high risk industries, which includes remote tech support.
Our goal is to be the undisputed best tech support merchant account provider. To do that effectively, we have to understand the unique needs of the remote tech support industry and provide unique products and services to serve that industry. For the remote tech support industry, we’ve created the below “tech support credit card processing cheat sheet”. It’s designed to give tech support business owners a single place to obtain all the information they’ll need to get a high risk merchant account for tech support, and succeed for the long term when accepting credit and debit card payments.
Table of Contents
Getting and Setting Up A Merchant Account
A Note From Our CEO
Adam CarlsonSoar Payments, CEO
Running a tech support business is tough.
At least, it can be, according to what several tech support entrepreneurs have told me personally. (One remote tech support biz owner I know even said “Never again!” after he’d built up a very successful business.)
OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your tech support business unless you plan ahead:
- Managing recurring billing with multiple plans
- Avoiding “Friendly” chargebacks
- Getting a high enough card processing volume cap.
The good news is, all of these problems are solve-able. It took me about 12 hours of research, but I put together the below “tech support credit card processing cheat sheet” for entrepreneurs in the tech support industry.
It’s my sincere hope that you find this article useful (because I put a lot of work into it)… and if you need help with your high risk credit card processing, I’d love to help you with that, too.
P.S. If you own a tech support business, and want affordable and easy high risk credit card processing we can help you (in fact, tech support is one of our specialties). Click here to begin a free online application.
January 20, 2016
Tech Support Industry Profile:
- Domestic (US) total annual revenue for the tech support industry totals $4.7 Billion (2015), with remote tech support comprising $2.3 Billion of that total.
- The industry is growing at a rate of approximately $500 Million per year.
- Remote Tech Support has grown from 30% to 48% of the US market, while on-site tech support shrinking from 70% to 52% between 2010 and 2014.
- 75% of the US marketshare for Remote Tech Support is provided by small employers of under 100 employees.
Categorization of the Tech Support Industry:
SIC Code: Businesses in the tech support industry would generally fall into one of the following SIC codes,
- 7379: Computer Related Services, Not Elsewhere Categorized
- 8748: Business Consulting Services
- 7389: Business Services, Not Elsewhere Categorized
See the entire list of SIC codes here.
NAICS Code:: Remote tech support businesses generally use one of the following two NAICS codes:
- 541519: Other Computer Related Services
- 541618: Other Management Consulting Services
Publicly traded & equity backed Tech Support companies:
The following corporations are publicly traded in the United States.
- AECOM (NYSE: ACM): As of September 30, 2015, AECOM had annual revenues of $18 Billion, and has a market cap of 3.96 Billion, and trades at a forward looking P/E ratio of 7.53x.
The following companies are backed by series B or series C private equity investments.
- Bask (formerly iTOK): A privately held company, secured $18 Million in series B funding from ABS Capital Partners in mid-2014, and was recently listed among the fastest remote Tech Support businesses in the US.
- iYogi: A privately held company, secured a series C round of $15 Million in 2010, and lists a workforce of over 3,000 technical support specialists.
Return to Table of Contents
Getting a Tech Support Merchant Account
How do I get a tech support merchant account?
This is a pretty basic question, and the answer is pretty simple… apply with a merchant account provider. They’ll complete the application, send it to their underwriting department to review the application, and once approved, you’ll be ready to accept payments. That simple answer, however, glosses over the basic complexity that most processors do not serve the remote tech support industry, which is dealt with in the next question.
How do I find a tech support merchant account provider?
If you owned a retail business, almost every bank and processor would be happy to provide you with processing. Unfortunately, for remote tech support, that isn’t the case. That’s not because the salesperson doesn’t want your business, but rather because their sponsor bank or their processor will not approve remote tech support merchant accounts because of the chargeback risk. So, the first question you should ask when calling a high risk merchant account provider for tech support is, “Do you provide high risk merchant accounts for tech support businesses?”. And then ask… “What about remote PC tech support?”. And finally… “Are you sure?” Because often the salesperson will tell you initially that they do, but then you complete the application process, only to find out that their underwriting department doesn’t.
Does Soar Payments offer tech support merchant accounts?
Yes, at Soar Payments we provide all-inclusive high risk credit card processing services to tech support merchants, ranging from startups to businesses processing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. The process is simple, just complete our 5-minute free online application, then we’ll email you a PDF copy which lists all terms and pricing for your electronic signature, and once approved, you can begin processing. We’ll handle setting up your chargeback management tools, and gateway, making the process easy and simple.
How do I get a higher processing volume limit?
Most remote tech support businesses want to scale their business to $100,000 per month or more in sales. The problem, is that their first merchant account is typically capped at somewhere between $20,000 to $40,000. So how do they increase their cap? There is a pretty straightforward answer:
- Time: A tech support merchant account is in some ways a line of credit from the processor to you. Just as with any business loan, your track-record enables you to obtain a larger line of credit. Typically after 3 to 6 months of successful processing (which means a low chargeback ratio, steady volume, predictable transaction sizes, etc.) you can request to have your account re-reviewed and typically obtain a higher limit.
What is an underwriter looking for when reviewing my tech support merchant account application?
The underwriter’s role at a credit card processor is to make sure that the business is a good risk for the credit card processor to take on. Specifically, he / she is looking at the likelihood that the credit card processor will face losses on the account. The ways that losses occur for the credit card processor is that there are either large or high numbers of chargebacks that go unpaid, bills that go unpaid, or fines incurred either by the government, the card brands, or their sponsor bank, for taking on a merchant that is engaging in fraud or other nefarious activity. So, in sum, they are looking for businesses that look stable, legitimate, and have a bank account with sufficient funds to cover any chargebacks. So the more you’re able to present your business as legitimate, stable, and with significant enough resources to cover any losses, the better your chances.
Return to Table of Contents
Question? Ask Away. We’re Ready to Help.
If you’ve got a question about a CRM, payment gateway, chargeback tool, merchant account or anything else related to growing a remote PC tech support business, and want some advice, email me your question directly: AdamCarlson@soarpay.com.
Ready to Get Started?
Ready to start accepting payments at your tech support company, Click here to begin a free online application
Reviews of Gateways for Remote Tech Support Businesses
Remote tech support businesses primarily accept payments over the phone (what is often called MoTo payments), or through their website (aka eCommerce). In either instance, the customers credit card information is actually entered into a payment gateway, which is a user interface that securely transmits card data to the processor. There are literally hundreds of payment gateways available, but most remote tech support businesses use one of just a few.
- Authorize.net Gateway:Owned by Visa, simple to setup, and simple to use, Authorize.net is the most popular payment gateway overall, which means that a lot of tech support businesses use it, particularly smaller or startup tech support businesses that operate with a single MID. Most major CRMs and chargeback management software products offer integration with Authorize.net, making it the easiest product to use, albeit not terribly robust.
- NMI Gateway: The NMI Gateway is slightly more difficult to setup, but it offers a number of features that other gateways do not, making it the choice for most larger or well established remote tech support businesses. Specifically, the NMI gateway fully integrates with a number of chargeback mitigation tools and robust reporting. Moreover, it allows for multiple login IDs, which means that chargeback management software or CRM software can be integrated without having the business owner share his main login information.
- USAePay Gateway: Typically the cheapest gateway offered by a merchant account provider on a per transaction rate, USAePay is chosen by some small remote tech support businesses as a slightly cheaper alternative to Authorize.net. It does not offer the same level of reporting some of the other special features of NMI, but is largely feature equivalent to Authorize.net, with the only downside that it doesn’t integrate with quite as many shopping carts or CRMs, simply because it’s market share is smaller.
While most payment gateways allow you to purchase their product directly, typically it is cheaper and easier to purchase the payment gateway through a merchant account provider, who is able to secure the service at a cheaper price. Moreover, some merchant service providers will help you configure your gateway and integrate any chargeback management or CRMs that your business is using.
Return to Table of Contents
CRMs for Remote Tech Support Businesses
Customer Relations Management (CRM) software is used by tech support businesses to manage their customer’s information, profile, track contacts, track the salesperson associated with the sale, perform recurring billing, track the performance of advertising campaigns, send automated emails, and other customer targeted organizational activities. There are dozens of CRMs on the market, but tech support businesses generally use one of a small number of options, each of which is reviewed below.
- Limelight CRM: Branded as “made for marketers, by marketers”, Limelight is the CRM of choice for continuity and recurring billing businesses. But because of the special features that they offer, such as being able to pre-program transactions, and call center integration, they’re also the choice of a lot of the largest remote tech support businesses. The biggest issue, they’re expensive. The company doesn’t post prices, but generally expect a Limelight subscription to cost you more than $500 per month, plus a setup fee. That price point makes it less attractive for anything but the largest tech support businesses.
- Zoho CRM: Priced as low as $12 per month, Zoho is the CRM of choice most mid-sized remote PC tech support businesses, who have outgrown using an excel spreadsheet to manage their customer list and payments. They offer a recurring billing scheduling option, will integrate with Authorize.net to issue payments, which is useful for tech support businesses that have a recurring billing option. Unfortunately, they don’t yet integrate with NMI, so if you’re trying to balance multiple merchant accounts, you won’t be fully integrated.
- Google Sheets: As strange as it sounds, a lot of startup tech support businesses just use Google Spreadsheets, a free cloud based spreadsheet to manage their customer information when they first get started. It’s free, and by pairing it with an NMI gateway, they can achieve basic functionality for very little cost. Obviously, this is not a viable solution for a tech support business with more than a few hundred customers, as Google Sheets is cumbersome and wasn’t really designed for this purpose. That said, if you’re looking for the cheapest solution to just get started, it doesn’t get much cheaper than free.
Return to Table of Contents
Everything a Tech Support Business Needs to Know About Chargebacks
Merchants in the remote tech support industry have to be aware of their chargeback ratio, because, most often, excessive chargebacks is what causes a tech support merchant account to be terminated.
How to Calculate a Chargeback Ratio?
A businesses’ chargeback ratio is the number of chargebacks per month divided by the total number of monthly transactions. The dollar amount of the chargeback is irrelevant, as is, in most cases, whether or not you win, lose, or don’t fight the chargeback. Once a chargeback has been initiated it counts as a chargeback. So, if your tech support business has 100 transactions in a month, and 4 past customers who have initiated a chargeback dispute, you have a 4% chargeback ratio for that month, depending on whether or not you fight and win those disputes.
Why does a processor care what my chargeback ratio is?
Your tech support credit card processor faces potential Visa / MasterCard fines if your chargeback ratio exceeds 2%, and they continue to let you process. Those fines can be in the thousands of dollars, which means that getting fined for allowing you process will certainly cost them more than your merchant account brings in. That means that once the processor begins looking at your account, and sees that the ratio exceeds 2%, they will almost always terminate your account, so the key is to keep your ratio below 2%. Additionally, excessive chargebacks can often be a sign of other problems with your business, specifically an inadequate fraud or chargeback mitigation plan, poor service or customer service, etc.
Why do tech support businesses get lots of chargebacks?
Remote tech support as an industry is prone to high chargebacks, (and thus categorized as high risk credit card processing) for a few reasons,
- Some tech support businesses are poorly run, and do not deliver adequate customer service,
- Some tech support customers are unsophisticated and do not know to call the customer service number listed on their credit card statement,
- Many tech support customers do not receive something tangible for their purchase as opposed to a goods provider, leading some customers to not feel like they got good value for their money days or months after the transaction is concluded particularly if the tech support company does not provide complimentary follow up service,
- Typically, tech support service is relatively expensive, often costing into the hundreds of dollars, which is a high enough ticket that dissatisfied customers, or customers seeking to free up cashflow identify the tech support service as a good target,
- Most remote tech support businesses are small businesses without a strong brand name. Thus, dissatisfied customers may not be presented with all of the refund opportunities they would from a larger company, nor have the name recognition of their service provider prompting the customer to contact the merchant directly,
- Many tech support business owners do not understand that a chargeback, often regardless of whether won or lost, contributes to their chargeback ratio, thus they do not immediately grant refunds, enroll in chargeback alert programs, nor fight illegitimate chargebacks,
How do I keep my chargeback ratio low?
In a lot of high-chargeback industries, the key is to quickly identify stolen credit cards, or bad sales before they happen. In the tech support industry, however, the key is to make sure that you provide every opportunity for a disgruntled customer to contact you directly, when they do respond quickly and with a full refund, and endeavor to provide free ongoing computer support if an issue were to arise in the future on that customer’s computer. Some specific ideas that our tech support customers have used are:
- Send confirmation and customer satisfaction emails: When you take a credit card payment, make sure that you send an electronic receipt, which includes the business’ contact information. At the end of the month, before the customer receives their credit card statement, send a customer satisfaction email, asking whether the customer was pleased with their tech support service, and if not, to contact you so that you can make it right.
- Receive and Refund Customer Dispute Alerts: There are a number of services that will alert you if a customer calls their issuing bank to initiate a chargeback, and provides you with a 72 hour window to issue a full refund. While we at Soar Payments integrate this service into all of our high risk tech support credit card processing accounts automatically, you can also obtain similar services from a third party and integrate them yourself.
- When in doubt, send a full refund: If a customer contacts you complaining about the service and their complaint has some validity, first issue a full refund. And only once a full refund has been issued, then try to provide an additional service (which the customer would then pay for) to make it right. In doing so, you remove the chargeback potential of the first transaction and better ensure that the customer is happy with the overall service.
- Maintain high transaction counts: Your chargeback ratio is determined by the number of monthly transactions, so a technical support business with only 50 transactions per month is much more at risk of getting shut down by a few rogue chargebacks than one with a few hundred transactions. Clearly you can’t simply will your business to be 10x its current size, but its still an important consideration, for example, you wouldn’t want to shut down sales for an extended vacation during a month when you knew you already had a couple of chargebacks, as this would cause your ratio to artificially spike.
For more detail on how to use each of these techniques to prevent tech support chargebacks see our article.
Return to Table of Contents
Tech Support trade associations and memberships:
The following list of trade associations and memberships groups are specific to the tech support industry:
- Think HDI – Founded in 1989, HDI became the first professional association created for the technical support industry. HDI provides exceptional resources, tools, information, and forums specifically for the tech support industry.
- The Service Industry Association (SIA) was founded in 1985 as NCSN (National Computer Service Network) as the leading trade association for companies engaged in the repair of electronic hardware and in support of the high tech service industry. They provide a regular newsletter and organize several conferences each year for tech support professionals.
- Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) boasts 30,000 members, and provides industry research, the ability to benchmark a companies production relative to industry peers, as well as a number of forums and conferences.
Return to Table of Contents
List of tech support industry web resources and forums:
The tech support industry has several forums targeted towards junior employees who work in this field to learn from one another or help answer the most difficult customer support questions.
- Think HDI Forums: Available to members, offer robust and active forums dealing with some of the most complex client questions.
- Tech Support Forum: Originally a resource for DIY technology fixes, offers a number of forums directed toward IT Help Desk professionals.
- Bleeping Computer: In addition to tens of thousands of questions answered by peers, Bleeping Computer covers advice relating to certifications and starting a tech support business.
There are also several resources and articles that entrepreneurs considering starting their own remote technical support business may find useful:
- WebHostingTalk – User driven forums with discussions of merchant account providers and gateways for remote tech support businesses.
- Starting a Remote PC Tech Support Business – Although simplistic, this article walks you through the basic legal and technical requirements needed to start a remote tech support business.
- Tom’s IT Pro – An industry leading resource for IT professionals to learn about new technologies, techniques and certifications to advance their careers.
- Startups.co.uk: How to Start an IT Consultancy – An article that covers laws and regulations applicable to remote tech support, and writing a business plan.
- WikiHow: 12 Steps to Creating an IT Consulting Business – An article that outlines 12 steps to launching your own IT consulting business.
Return to Table of Contents
List of tech support credentialing organizations:
The following organizations provide well-regarded certifications and credentials common to the technical support industry:
Return to Table of Contents
Tech Support Industry Infographics
The following infographics depict interesting data about the tech support industry in a visual manner. These infographics are posted here under Fair Use rules: the source for each is credited, and you must click on each thumbnail image to view the entire original infographic.
Return to Table of Contents
Need Tech Support Merchant Services?
We’ve Got You Covered.
Soar Payments provides all-inclusive high risk credit card processing services to tech support merchants, ranging from startups to businesses processing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. So when you’re ready, we’re ready.