Let's face it, there are many options and several well established players when it comes to processing payments. So what makes YapStone, a credit card processing company, so special? "Our focus on customer support has been and will continue to be a major differentiator and driver of growth" says Tom Villante, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of YapStone.

How Fanatical Customer Service Drove Explosive Growth
It's amazing that something so simple as fanatical customer service can drive the kind of growth that YapStone has experienced, but the more automated their competitors became, the more their end-to-end customer service helped them stand out and achieve a 98% referral rate.

"Most of our competitors are gateway processors and/or API companies and not involved in the entire transaction", explains Tom Villante. "Because we know our customer's business and customized our payments solution to solve their specific business problems to help them grow, we have built trusted relationships with our software partners and established YapStone as the preferred payments solution for their customers. In the Vacation Rental Market, 98% of our new sales leads are referrals from software partners. That's because YapStone has built lasting, integrated relationships with the leading software partners in the industries we serve -- vacation rental, multifamily, homeowners associations, etc."

Not Your Typical Customer Service at YapStone

When most businesses think of customer service, they tend to relegate this task to a chat window or a call center rep. Rather than viewing customer service as a necessary burden or some form of a required "tax" on the business, YapStone has turned this function into the one thing that clearly sets them apart from their competitors. Tom Villante explains:

As a payments company, we believe that customer service expands to making online payments as easy and convenient as possible while mitigating the risk. That is why, in one of YapStone's products, it accepts the responsibility of being the "merchant of record (MoR)" for customers. We also go one step further and built a sophisticated customer on-boarding engine as well as a world-class risk and fraud team. Due to the risk associated with being the MoR, many payment companies decline this status and put the responsibility back on their customers. We believe that MoR status is a clear differentiator for us yet more importantly, is tantamount to delivering a solution that our customers want and need. It has provided both YapStone and our customers with growth opportunities.

Indeed it has. Founded in 1999, YapStone started before the payments industry and FinTech was cool. Rather than going for the quick dot com flip, YapStone focused on long-term growth and profitability. Revenue growth was over 35% for the past 5 years. Payment volume in 2015 is expected to be more than $14 billion. And revenue was $120 million in 2014 and is expected to growth in the coming years.

"I am extremely proud of one statistic: Only 0.04% of companies founded each year achieve $100 million in annual sales", says Tom Villante. "We are focused on being a global leader in payments and our valuation and growth is directly attributable to the people who work here. We call them "Yapsters" and we now have over 300 Yapsters in offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Monica and Ireland. We expect to hire more than 100 people in 2016."

Applying This Customer Service Insight To Your Business
No matter what industry you are in, you have tremendous industry expertise that your customers want and need. Fanatical customer service is NOT about staffing a call center or automating a chat help line on your website. Fanatical customer service as a key point of differentiation is about delivering incredible value to your ideal customer base.

For YapStone, they picked a specific industry vertical, and became incredibly knowledgeable about the needs of their customers. They built an entire end-to-end payments solution that not only provided a secure platform and processed payments, but they figured out how to clear the regulatory hurdles, mitigate risk and provide customer support for the actual transaction as well as post-transaction processing and charge-backs.

In short, YapStone made it incredibly easy for their customers to work with them and even mitigate the risk that often comes with payment processing. Fanatical customer service is about anticipating the needs of your customers and providing them solutions to problems they haven't even discovered they have ... yet.

Turning Cost Centers Into Strategic Drivers of Growth
When your customers see you as a strategic partner, rather than the lowest cost solutions vendor, not only can you command a premium price, but you will also create a raving fan that provides endless referrals and help you grow your business. This is the kind of customer service that matters. By hiring incredibly bright and talented staff, YapStone has converted what has traditionally been seen as a cost center of a business into a strategic driver of growth.

What cost centers do you have that you could convert to your secret weapon? It doesn't have to be customer service. It just has to set you apart from your competitors. When you go deep and invest in areas where your competitors skimp, it shows. Learn from a company that has broken through the 0.04% barrier and apply their key lesson to your business.

And if you already have done that, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter so that I can help you share your story too. After all, helping your fellow entrepreneurs helps you reinforce the very thing that has made you successful and attracts others to your cause.