Harmik Gharapetian: Charged Up Over Epoch

Stephen Yagielowicz

Harmik Gharapetian knows his customers’ needs. After all, he has been involved in the online adult processing space for more than 13 years — all with Epoch.

The charasmatic Gharapetian, Epoch’s vice president of sales and marketing, has helped the Santa Monica, Calif.-based 16-year-old billing company rise to the top.

I believe that our success has come from a personalized dedication to customer service for each and every one of our clients.

We chatted with Gharapetian about his company, and here’s what he had to say.

XBIZ: What defines Epoch and make it stand out from the rest?

GHARAPETIAN:  I would start out by saying what defines Epoch is its full dedication to its customers, ensuring that they are taken care of in every way.

We believe there are many distinctions that differentiate Epoch from other payment service providers.

Our longevity is one important factor. We have been providing services since 1996 and during that time we’ve all witnessed many processors come and go, but we have persevered, even thrived. I think that is a big feat in the high-risk area, and a lot of credit has to go to the visionaries who started this company.

I believe that our success has come from a personalized dedication to customer service for each and every one of our clients. In this business, we must operate 24 hours a day and 365 days a year continuously, and our clients have access not only to our services but to our staff at any time. Our clients have direct access to their account rep and anyone else in our company.

We believe the personal touch, the extra care, and fast response to client requests are all part of what sets us apart from others. And we are a technology company that continues to innovate and add to our services.

We provide full risk management, 24/7/365 state-of-the-art customer service, affiliate payouts, marketing features, and process all major credit cards as well as local payment options to help our clients better monetize their traffic around the world.

XBIZ: How many transactions does Epoch facilitate each month?

GHARAPETIAN: We are a private company and we don’t disclose those numbers. What I will say is that even with the challenges that face this market today, we continue to see steady growth.

Of course it’s not the kind of growth we saw in the late 1990s. Business models and regulations have changed dramatically since then. But we’ve adapted to the market each time there has been a shift and we’ve catered to the specific needs of this industry. We’ve led through innovation and dedication to our core competencies.

What’s been great for us is to see so many clients that started out with us and have grown to become some of the biggest companies in the industry. I think that gives the entire team at Epoch a great satisfaction and our goal is to continue to help them grow.

XBIZ: How important is it to customize programs for client needs? And can you give some real and interesting examples of such customization?

GHARAPETIAN: The adult industry has been home to many creative ideas. It’s full of niche markets and a lot of ideas about how to charge for the services rendered. While the recurring membership model remains the most popular, there are other models too such as pay-per-unit billing, cross-selling, retention incentives, etc.

Epoch’s APIs and transaction engine are flexible enough to accommodate nearly any type of billing model. When clients come to us with new ideas, our team will work to provide whatever is necessary (within the rules and regulations of course) to allow them to market their products as they wish.

A great example of customization, however, comes from our join forms and how they are customized for each customer. Epoch has designed and implemented what we believe to be the most sophisticated yet easy to use payment form available anywhere.

It is customization to the max. Each form is created dynamically to present itself in your customer’s language, to present the charge in their currency, and to offer payment types based on their location. All this is done without a single click, making the process an extremely streamlined, customized, payment experience.

XBIZ: What sector of the online adult business is driving the market these days?

GHARAPETIAN: While the subscription model is still alive and well, two of the hottest areas are currently the cam and dating sites.

We all are aware of how tube sites and the vast amount of free content has taken a bite out of the industry as a whole, but that is where the cam and dating sites have an advantage. Real human interaction is something people are quite willing to pay for and the sites that are really thriving know this. And, cam sites as well as dating sites can drive traffic to subscription sites as well (and vice versa).

XBIZ: Where is most of your business coming from, U.S., Europe or is it about the same?

GHARAPETIAN: While the U.S. is still dramatically the number one source of business, that is certainly starting to change. Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, and Spain are among the biggest markets. Over the past few years, Epoch has been expanding the payment types we accept to better suit regional and local billing methods.

I don’t know if most people realize the tremendous potential of these markets, or, that we have designed our join/payment forms to automatically present the most user friendly experience possible in terms of language, currency, and payment types. We’ve focused very much on the European regions and clients who know that we can monetize that traffic are doing very well.

XBIZ: How does Epoch, with an evolving slate of banking and privacy regulations, stay in compliance?

GHARAPETIAN: This is exactly why using an IPSP is a good idea. The nature of regulations is always changing and there are big implications for being out of compliance. We have three in-house lawyers as well as outside counsel who work to ensure that Epoch remains within all card association rules and overnment regulations. We are a Level One Service Provider and we are audited each year, surpassing the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). In addition, Epoch consists of a team of industry leaders, most of which have grown with the industry and have been a part of Epoch for well over a decade. That kind of loyalty is rare and has been a big part of our success.

XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz, what do you like to do?

GHARAPETIAN: First of all, I love what I do, and I have to give credit to the brilliant minds behind Epoch that have given me the opportunity to represent their company. I am always accessible to our clients through any medium possible. When I am not working, I love sports. I am an avid golfer, and although not really good at it, I do enjoy the challenge. I enjoy watching sports, football, soccer, basketball and love hanging out with my wife and our dog.