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Exhibitor Focus

Mar 19, 2014

5 Minutes With Jibril Sulaiman

President, Pay Cell Systems

Arlene Hauben

Entrepreneur C. Jibril Sulaiman II started out in a local market and carved out a niche market with his independent wireless stores. He followed his passion for phones, built a retail business, and saw an opportunity to solve a problem that plagued his store. Ultimately, he developed the Cell Pay platform, a technological solution for independent wireless retailers that allows them to accept refills from their customers even when the customer can’t get into the store.

AH: How did you get into prepaid?
JS:
I got into prepaid in 2002 by repairing phones at a local flea market. That business evolved into a full-fledged wireless store, and then another store.
AH: So you became a retailer. What did you learn from being on the retail side of the wireless business?
JS:
I saw that customers had to come back to my store to make their monthly prepaid plan payment, in order for me to make any residual money. However, there were people who did not always have the time to come in. They had to get away from their jobs or from other important tasks just to make a payment. So I realized there needed to be a solution for stores to be able to accept payments from customers who could not make it back in.
AH: There must be a lot of independent wireless stores. When you first started were most of your customers using prepaid plans?
JS:
Yes there are thousands of stores and many more opening. Unlike the independent stores of today, I actually sold some postpaid services at the beginning. But in 2007, I realized “prepaid only” was the way to go. Since the recession, many postpaid customers have switched to prepaid as a way to become more cost conscious.

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AH: I guess those people were not used to making payments in the store.
JS:
That’s right. Many of the postpaid customers that switch to prepaid are used to dialing 611 and entering their credit card number by phone or over the web. They were used to having multiple ways to pay. As a prepaid wireless store owner, I wanted to always profit from that customer’s payment. Let’s say if there is a snowstorm or heavy work schedule, most can’t come into the store. They are used to being able to call their carrier or pay online.
AH: What did you think could fix this problem?
JS:
I had to streamline the process of accepting a payment from my customers. There were about $2.5 million worth of customers walking into the store to pay us every year. Many of those customers wanted to call us to make payment and in many instances would give the salesperson on the phone their credit card numbers. I realized a major security flaw in operating in this manner.
AH: What were the drawbacks of taking payments over the phone with a live salesperson?
JS:
The fear of employee theft and fraud were big issues and so was time. Workers would have to manually type in credit card information, generate a prepaid pin and load the pin; a 5 to 10 minute process. I tried routing the calls to one of my lower volume stores using an option for bill pay on our existing phone system. But it still took too much time and there were logistical problems.
AH: What happened next?
JS:
Our customers were so used to calling in for help. So the solution had to be to build out a phone system to allow multiple customers to call in at one time. In 2010, I decided to build an IVR based solution for my store to be able to accept payments 24 hours a day. That became Pay Cell Systems.
AH: In the beginning, were their problems?
JS:
Yes, there were issues to be solved, like how to auto load the pins to customers accounts and validate the phone numbers of the customers. But eventually we worked it out and we had a solution in place. Then we added the website and text to pay components. We now have what we call the “Cell Pay” platform. With the platform, the wireless store captures residual income even if the customer can’t make it to the store. Wireless stores have the comfort of knowing that they can take payments and make profits from those customers unable to come in. They can now educate their customers on how to make a payment directly with the store. This guarantees that the customer is a life customer, because they won’t want to make a change. Making a payment becomes an automatic task and the store will always profit from that.
AH: What about competing systems?
JS:
Our company is the only solution that offers 4 methods of acceptance: (1) text to pay; (2) pay by phone; (3) mobile optimized site; and (4) mobile app. The competitors are only developing app/web solutions.
AH: From the customer’s point of view, how does this make him feel?
JS:
The customer feels he has more control and this creates a higher sense of loyalty. He can text to make payment, call on the phone and pay or use the site/app. Instead of just going to the store and making payment.
AH: Does the system help with postpaid customers?
JS:
We can’t accept postpaid payments through Cell Pay. But many postpaid customers are switching to prepaid and they are used to having multiple ways to make payments. So wireless stores that use Cell Pay need to have a payment system in place ready to accept that customer’s payment.
AH: How does the Cell Pay platform work?
JS:
We set up a store as a new profile in our system and assign the store a virtual phone number and a sub domain under cellpay.us. When customers call the store’s number or visit the store’s site, we track the payments and discounts. Pay Cell Systems processes the credit card sale and issues the pin number to be loaded on the wireless account. The store instantly receives an email that a new transaction has occurred. By the 15th of the next month the store receives their discount commission earned from any sales of the previous month.
AH: What does it cost the wireless retailer store for Cell Pay?
JS:
We charge $14.95 a month, with no set up fees. We charge a fair price because we know how tough it is for the dealers and I used to be one myself. There’s no need to overcharge from a product that’s designed to help dealers make money.
AH: Are wireless dealers usually stand-alone stores?
JS:
The dealers that use our system are kiosks, stand-alone stores, repair shops and online stores. We also have some churches that use the system to accept payments from their members. The system actually provides a great way for any organization to fundraise.
AH: What are you doing nowadays to keep your retail business operating?
JS:
I no longer do retail. I’m all into “technology,” which includes running the day to day operations of Pay Cell Systems. I am also working on another technology startup and working with a local technology incubator in Pensacola, FL.
AH: I follow you and your groups on Facebook, which is how I learned about you and your company. What was your intent in starting the Facebook group?
JS:
Well I started the Facebook group in 2011 as a place to talk to other dealers. At that time I was still a wireless store owner, but I had no one to connect with. I still love the world of wireless dealers and the whole industry. The Prepaid Wireless Dealers group on Facebook now has over 1100 followers in the group. There are also 5 other categorized groups that I run. These consist of a GSM unlocking group, Master Dealer’s group, Cell Phone Repair group, Handset Group and a CDMA flashing group. I am delighted to have made a way for dealers to interact with each other. It’s a great tool that allows people to express their frustrations or delight. In one great example, members have banded together on a donation page for a hospitalized dealer. It’s turned into a family for many people to talk about wireless. •

Jibril Sulaiman is President of Pay Cell Systems. Visit Pay Cell Systems online atwww.paycellsystems.com.

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