NMI’s Payment Playbook Podcast – Episode 7: Jaron Ruckman, IRIS CRM / NMI
The world of merchant services management is evolving at an impressive pace, thanks to innovations like IRIS CRM. In this episode of our podcast, we were joined by Jaron Ruckman, Product Manager for IRIS CRM, for an insightful conversation about how this revolutionary product is reshaping the industry.
IRIS CRM, a product owned by NMI, is a comprehensive merchant services management solution that integrates with top processors and cultivates close-knit client relationships. For ISOs, banks, and ISVs, IRIS CRM offers the benefit of enhanced visibility and accountability. It also provides an infinite data retention policy, which is a crucial feature for maintaining a complete and accessible record of all customer interactions and transactions.
We also decipher the complexities of residual reporting and demonstrate the tools you need to streamline split calculations. For businesses that are not utilizing a comprehensive tool like IRIS CRM, the process of managing merchant services can be tedious and error prone. The use of disparate systems and manual processes can result in inefficiencies and inaccuracies. IRIS CRM solves these issues by offering a single, integrated solution that manages the entire life cycle of merchant services.
In summary, IRIS CRM is a game-changing tool in the realm of merchant services management. Its comprehensive features and functionalities, coupled with its ability to integrate with top processors, make it a must-have tool for any business in the industry. Tune into our podcast for a more detailed exploration of IRIS CRM and its myriad benefits.
Greg Myers: Hi Jaron and welcome to this episode of the Leaders in Payments Podcast where we’re doing a deep dive on what happens before and after the transaction. So welcome to the show.
Jaron Ruckman: Thanks Greg it’s great to be here I appreciate you having me.
Greg Myers: Absolutely so let me just set the stage for our conversation today. As you know IRIS CRM is a complete merchant services management solution and it was acquired by and NMI in January of 2022 so we’re going to be talking about a couple of things – the functionality and the value of having a solution like IRS. Before we get into the product, we want to talk a little bit about you so tell us about your current role there and maybe a little personal and career background about how you got there.
Jaron Ruckman: Sure, I’m the product manager for IRIS and I started ten years ago on the support team. I was actually the only support person, so we eventually built a team around what I started with. Over the years we went from I think we had under 10 employees when we started and about 10 clients now we’ve got I think over 60 employees that work specifically on IRIS here at NMI and almost 300 clients. So quite a growth in 10 years. IRIS itself was started in 2010 by Dimitri Akhrin who had an ISO who needed a payment-specific CRM and couldn’t find any solution. He eventually had it built himself and then found that competitors and colleagues out there including other ISOS could also benefit from the same kind of product so he could sell it out. Now before I started with IRIS years ago I’m from Kansas City I was living there. I worked for a few different big tech corporations and got an itch to move to New York City to look for a job and that’s actually where Dimitri and IRIS found me.
Greg Myers: Okay, yeah I didn’t know all the details of the background of IRIS and I didn’t know it had been around that long and you’ve been there almost from the beginning so a lot of experience that we’re going to dive into. So why don’t we do that. Why don’t we talk about IRIS and give us the fifty thousand foot level of what IRIS does.
Jaron Ruckman: Yeah, so IRIS is of course a CRM as we’ve put into our name the original name IRIS meant integrated reporting is simple just kind of a play on words a fun way to kind of get excited about the product. Eventually, we wanted to put CRM in the name because that’s really the focus we wanted to stand out in the marketplace and specifically in the payments industry because that’s where we serve as a full-service tool. Our primary clients are ISOs. However, we have sponsors banks and also ISVs that get great benefit by using IRIS. Now the main functions that IRIS serves in are going to be around sales, boarding, merchant reporting, support and residuals and in those areas we have integrations with the top processors. Naturally, we’ve got excellent connections to our parent company NMI so that clients can easily board gateway accounts with a few clicks and just around the corner we’re also adding a boarding feature right into our merchant boarding pages called Turbo App which allows you to get your merchant account and your gateway account in one process.
Greg Myers: So, when we talk about sort of this complete Merchant Services Management solution I mean you’re you’re managing the entire lifecycle you’re, helping your customers in your ISOs and some banks and others manage that whole life cycle.
Jaron Ruckman: That’s right? We decided long ago that basically there’s other CRMs that are out there. They might be kind of generic. There’s very popular versions out there but they don’t really serve this industry and as close as they could get. These integrations with the processors are really what makes us unique because we’ve spent weeks, months and years actually scoping out and building these integrations because that’s the area that we knew and when this got started and that’s what we want to keep our focus on.
Greg Myers: Okay, and so that those integrations make it unique What else makes it different and unique in the marketplace?
Jaron Ruckman: Well, I think really the obvious that is the focus on the industry but also we’ve got you know, not a huge team. We’ve got dedicated sales and support teams and implementation teams also, that work with our clients. So, there’s pretty close relationships there. Anybody who’s signed up for a big product online for something knows you self-sign up, you kind of self-support. Maybe the plan you have has some kind of support component but you’re really pretty distant from those people with our teams. We’ve got our support teams which you can call, email and even use live chat with. They’re all US-based. We’ve got normal operating hours and we’re also available. You know pretty much throughout the year at industry events. So we’ve got a big presence there. So you know any other CRM tool probably is not really thinking about the merchant industry or is something that they want to focus on. Meanwhile we’re looking at it as this is what we know, this is what we serve and this is what we’re the best choice in.
Greg Myers: Okay, well can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges that maybe ISOs and other payments companies have if they don’t have this sort of end-to-end complete solution.
Jaron Ruckman: Yeah, when an ISO doesn’t really have a what we’ll call it a full support tool to sell and service their accounts often they’re left kind of scraping together and they’re using different systems. Or they might just be hacking some tool to try to fit the purpose. One example of this is a lot of our clients when they come to us about residuals calculations. They give us these excel spreadsheets that they’ve created and crafted usually they’re basic calculations or they have macros and there’s a lot going on in there. But there’s a lot also that can go wrong in there and so these advanced calculations could result in a bad payout or a bad calculation internally on how much revenue was received on accounts or how much should be paid out so in IRIS what we do is we set up each merchant account that you’re boarding and tie a specific user whether that’s an agent referral partner sub ISO to that and have you set the split position its and then decide on if there’s any advanced calculations and that way when that residual’s files comes in. Whether it’s in the next month or so when that account is processing. You’ve actually got the calculations already to go and it takes a minute or maybe a little more to get those payout amounts and know exactly what you’ve made and not worry. Oh if my is my excel spreadsheet updated you know did I make some kind of error in there.
Greg Myers: Okay, and so is it pretty fair to say that you know the companies out there that aren’t using you. They’re most likely kind of just putting a bunch of systems together and trying to figure out how to make them all talk to each other and that’s one of the huge pain points that you solve for.
Jaron Ruckman: Exactly and with IRIS we know that sometimes people do like a certain other tool or they have some other system that they want to connect to so we’ve got a public API that any client can use. The documentation is right in our website. And also with that API we have connections to a system called Zapier and if anybody has heard of this they know how capable it can be but it’s basically like an integration translator for all kinds of tech systems. So, if you want to pass data between two systems that haven’t integrated to each other. But they’ve integrated to Zapier, Zapier serves as that conduit that translator of information to feed information back and forth so that one thing in another system can trigger something an IRIS or something in IRIS can trigger an action in some other system. So, while we definitely consider ourself the let’s say best in breed we know that there’s additional things people want to do maybe specific to their business information. They want to pull out so there are those opportunities to use the API in Zapier to accomplish those things.
Greg Myers: Okay, all right? Well let’s peel the onion back a little bit and go a little bit deeper and you mentioned some of this functionality around sales and customer support and residual management. So, let’s talk about sales. So how does IRIS help a sales team.
Jaron Ruckman: Well, the benefit of IRIS really comes down to organization and visibility in sales and when you’re allowing a team to enter all of the information about a lead or a prospect that they have then see everything that they’ve entered. Give visibility to the rest of their team when needed and then report on that information in an elegant way, then they’re able to see those deals and have visibility with managers, executives and have more insight of their sales pipeline. So any place can track information but we’re actually giving insights on things like how many leads have emailed you back in the last week, how many did you actually get approved in the last month, those kind of things can really help their quick insights that we offer in that sales pipeline to kind of help illustrate where that sales flow is taking you.
Greg Myers: Okay, and just for my own knowledge do you kind of consider these different things like modules or do you have a name for like sales is one, customer support is another.
Jaron Ruckman: Yeah, we call the leads area “My leads” which is pretty straightforward. The live merchant reporting is called “My Merchants.” Now for our support area that we’re going to touch on a bit in a moment that area is just called “Help Desk.” That’s just the name for it and then the area that we’ve really put a special name to our boarding tool. It’s called Turbo App indicated in the speed at which you can board an account to a processor.
Greg Myers: Okay, and this might be an obvious question. But when someone’s working the leads I assume that the leads just continues on through your system and once it’s entered it’s always there and that kind of just carries with it throughout the lifecycle.
Jaron Ruckman: That’s right, we decided long ago that the lead would never actually disappear once you had a merchant account that came from it because that lead will have so much history in it and documentation notes all the field edits if you’ve changed anything about it. You know? ah. Let’s say a tax id or a bank account number before they were boarded. We wanted to make sure that all of that information was retained so when you do get a live merchant account that merchant then is linked to the lead from which it came and you can see all that elite information within the same screen as the merchant and we so we essentially embed it alongside all of that merchant information like its actual account details from the processor, it’s batches and transactions disputes and statements. So, you’ve got one screen with the full history.
Greg Myers: Okay, okay, yeah I could see the value in that right from an ISOs perspective being able to do analytics on all of that information that you just mentioned.
Jaron Ruckman: Yeah, absolutely I think we’ve come a long way in our reporting so that there’s a number of features that clients have asked for over the years and we’ve been able to add those. There’s still a number of things of course as the product manager we’d love to add and we’re looking at those for the future in the roadmap but in the last couple years we’ve actually been rolling out what we call our V2 interface. IRIS having started in 2010 was built on a platform that ultimately didn’t transfer over and kind of become modern in the last few years, it really just couldn’t. so let’s say somewhat arrogantly somewhat described to people that to do this process of rebuilding IRIS as a V2 we had to take our product which I then describe as a Mona Lisa and paint an exact replica next to it exactly the same but also better and that’s what we were aiming to do with our V2 is we don’t want people to lose functionality or capabilities. But we wanted to make it a much better experience and add more functionality and make it way better suited for the future for. Additional expansion.
Greg Myers: Gotcha. Okay, well let’s move on from sales and talk a little bit about customer support and we know in this industry if the listeners have been in it very long that customer support can be a huge challenge for any payments company and not just ISOs but pretty much any payments company. So how does the IRIS platform help its customers with their customer support.
Jaron Ruckman: Just like with sales we have specific tools for supporting and servicing merchant accounts and what I touched on just a moment ago our help desk is the home for this and it allows tracking of any issue, question or what we call it “to do” about a merchant account. Basically, if something that’s come up about a merchant or from that merchant then you’re going to put it in the help desk as a ticket and that’s where you’re going to put a description attachments comments. You can assign it to people set due dates. Can also put in checklists so if you have a certain process you have to go through to address something for a merchant you can complete that and it’s really all about accountability. That’s a lot of what a CRM is, tracking visibility and accountability and IRIS does. Keeping that data and making sure it’s always available for you too. So in the “Help Desk” you can look back and say oh yeah, we had a billing question for that client a couple months ago or that that account had a question about hardware a month ago you’ve got a full history that’s available to you and it’s pretty interesting but in the “Help Desk” that’s also our home for what we call our maintenance pieces. So, for TSYS full-service providers
we have the ability to do maintenance on accounts including updating bank account information, account details, pricing, terminals and one of our more impressive features that we have specifically within NMI is the ability to board an account. So when you’ve got an existing merchant account, in the “Help Desk” you pick a certain ticket type as we call it, called “My Boarding” and you can take the information you already have about that merchant account such as the contacts, settlement details, processor information and then select a pricing plan for them and board to the gateway account and get that ID back within a second and that’s really one of the things that we’ve been focusing on lately is how to even strengthen and add to all of our connections. Even though we’re all remote at this point you know everybody, and different locations, we’re all in the same room so to speak, we’re under the same roof so it makes it that much easier to build these stronger integrations so really, we’re looking at more and more ways to help that functionality and what we’re going to be coming out in the next few months relates to actually boarding that account not just after you have a merchant account but boarding to the gateway as you’re using Turbo App and boarding the account to the processor. So that one motion process I mentioned earlier.
Greg Myers: Okay, so is it fair to say that an ISO might view IRIS as sort of their system of record for their business.
Jaron Ruckman: Absolutely yeah, I think the important piece of that is in our data retention. You know you probably know from looking at a bank account you’re going to see certain months of data, maybe a year or two and we have an indefinite data retention policy so we don’t get rid of old data. We only delete things that a user or an admin wants to delete otherwise data stays in the site so you have it available if you’ve got an account. You’ve worked on five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten years you’re still going to see that information available on the account because we’ve kept it in there and made it available to you.
Greg Myers: Okay, all right. Well you mentioned residual reporting a little earlier. Walk us through the importance of it and what functionality IRIS has.
Jaron Ruckman: Yeah, many of our new clients as we mentioned have used Excel spreadsheets maybe to do their calculations and what we do is in that setup process of setting up residual splits and adjustments, we make it very tracked, very visible. Every change is accounted for and we’re really bringing control to the ISO. It’s that visibility and control that empower them to know that they’re making correct calculations for those residuals and they can see essentially the math that’s happening inside of that calculation. Now what we call a straight split on an account, or this agent gets 25%. That’s easy to do now. What if there’s what we’ll call a net split or a split of a split or you’ve got to pay maybe a manager or a sub-ISO and then someone else below them you need to calculate out of their split. Or you need to do things with buy rates and other calculations. Maybe certain fees to not pay on or exclude or a percentage reductions, all of that need and what we’ve talked with clients over the years has led us to building tools that accomplish those things. And one really impressive thing we have in our residuals feature is what we call the fee verifier and this allows you to take your residuals and from your first import for a given processor it will determine your buy rates based on those the columns and all the data points in the file.
For future reports that you get, it will confirm that those buy rates are still being used to calculate your payout as the ISO and we found that you know sometimes processor systems when they make these files and do those calculations themselves don’t always get it perfectly right. So, it’s kind of like an audit tool for the ISO to make sure that they’ve got the right amount of information and the correct numbers so they can then correctly pay their teams.
Greg Myers: So, I assume from an ISO perspective this is solving for a potentially huge pain point that they have or have had in the past.
Jaron Ruckman: Absolutely I remember I think it was eight or nine years ago we had a client that said, how do I know if they’re giving us the right amount and I kind of shrugged – like well how would we potentially know and then the idea came up to use that initial report as the buy rate guideline or simply just have the ISO tell us their buy rates and then those could be put into this system and used to audit those other reports. So, it’s really helped a lot of ISOs with that accountability from before them to make sure that they’re getting paid correctly.
Greg Myers: Yeah, makes perfect sense. So when we look at the big picture again, we talked about what do companies do that don’t have this and what pain points does it cause. Maybe talk about why is it so important that an ISO has this functionality. What’s obviously just helping them drive their business but maybe talk about from your perspective why that’s so important.
Jaron Ruckman: I recently spoke at an event with a lot of our partners and what I summarized about IRIS is that it was really three things. It’s a complete, connected and convenient but it’s probably a bit oversimplifying it to say that it’s those things because we know we can talk at great length about it. But those things complete, connected and convenient – those really drive what anybody should be looking for when they’re looking for a system that would solve for these things. So, IRIS has as product has functionality that no other generic CRM has to offer or probably ever will offer and we also know that every ISO is dealing with things that are specific to the processors and the banks and the relationships that they have and what requirements they have. So we’ve built things specifically for that we can you know audit information but before it’s sent to a processor and confirm that it’s the right format and those are kind of things that people wouldn’t get. Maybe if they were using a direct boarding tool or maybe trying to put together some other system of their own because we’ve spent so much time building it and updating it due to market demands and processor guideline changes. That’s also been and very important.
Greg Myers: Okay, well we’ve covered a lot of ground so far obviously about IRIS and a little bit about its history, a little bit about you and then obviously we’ve talked in some detail around the value and the different components of the product. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up the show.
Jaron Ruckman: Absolutely so I wouldn’t be a good product manager if I didn’t tell you about what we have coming up so in the quarters ahead I think I already mentioned about strengthening our integration with the NMI gateway platform and we’ve also got another company that’s joined under the NMI umbrella, Agreement Express – they do underwriting. So, for our wholesale and FSP friends we are able to connect to Agreement Express and bring in what they call the Scorecard so you can see what’s happened with the underwriting. And if there’s any flags raised or anything to resolve. That’s something that we had a basic integration before but we’re building one that’s much more robust, much more capable and that’s going to be coming out in a few months and then also for our NMI gateway partners that also utilize IRIS we’re going to be adding in maintenance for gateway accounts and also live reporting. So, in addition to all of the transactions that you would see on NMI merchant account you’ll also be able to identify specifically the gateway transactions. See the details of the gateway account and as we mentioned before do the maintenance on those accounts. So, by having IRIS, Agreement Express and NMI all these platforms put together we’ve really created this super solution for our current and future partners.
Greg Myers: Okay, all right. Well thanks, thanks for sharing the future vision. I appreciate that and I think that’ll wrap up the show for today. So, I wanted to thank you for being here I know your time’s very valuable and I really appreciate it. So, thanks so much for being on the show today.
Jaron Ruckman: Thanks so much for having me Greg, I really enjoyed the opportunity.
Greg Myers: Great and to all you listeners out there I thank you for your time as well and until the next story.
00:01:51 - About Jaron and his role with NMI
00:03:40 - About IRIS
00:05:43 - What Makes IRIS Unique
00:06:49 - Challenges ISOs Face
00:09:55 - How IRIS Helps Sales Teams
00:13:51 - IRIS and Customer Support
00:17:40 - IRIS and Residual Reporting
00:20:26 - Importance of Having IRIS
00:22:24 - The IRIS Roadmap