JCM Validates its Customer Success

From their beginning as a single operation in Japan, to becoming one of the gaming industry’s biggest players, JCM Global’s story is nothing short of impressive. The company now has more than 120 gaming licenses in North America, and boasts an executive team that’s ready and willing to conquer new installations, developments in technology and whatever else the industry has to throw at them.

For more than 50 years, customers have trusted JCM to develop innovative currency solutions for a diverse range of industries, including gaming, vending, retail, financial, transportation, security and custom applications. By combining passion for customer satisfaction, employee appreciation and inventive attitudes across the board, JCM is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Japan Cash Machine Inc. Ltd. was founded in 1955 in Osaka, Japan, beginning a tradition of developing currency solutions. They started manufacturing cash registers in 1959, and have been a world-leading manufacturer of currency solutions ever since. JCM began manufacturing and selling bill validators first for the yen in 1981, then the U.S. dollar in 1986.

The bill validator went through several developments as the years passed, transforming from a token dispenser, to a side-mounted bill validator, and eventually an up-stacker validator.

Starting off as a self-proclaimed “sales guy,” current President Aki Isoi joined the JCM team in 1985 and was part of the team responsible for bringing the bill validator business to the U.S. Isoi said that it took about two or three years to develop the first bill validator for the gaming industry, and when he approached mega-manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) in July of 1990, he had no idea that the partnership would lead to such immense success in the future.

“When the product hit the market, it really revolutionized how a casino operates,” Isoi said. “It increased the revenue of slot machines by 25 percent. Steve Wynn, who opened The Mirage before the first bill validator was introduced, replaced the entire floor with this brand-new embedded bill validator slot machine.”

The ‘90s, Isoi said, was a time of huge gaming expansion in North America, and everyone realized that the bill validator increased revenue. “The bill validator became a stand-up component for the slot machines,” he said, and considers his timing lucky. “I met the right people at the right time. If it was one year earlier or one year later, I wouldn’t have been able to start this business for the industry. We took a chance to develop something. JCM is the type of company that always wants to do something different and try to help the industry.”

Back row: Kip Haverman, sales director; Dave Kubajak, customer service director; John Garner, CFO; Tom Nieman, VP of ­­marketing; Mark Henderson, senior VP global sales. Front row: Karen Carnivale, HR director; Aki Isoi, president; Dana Talich, finance director
Back row: Kip Haverman, sales director; Dave Kubajak, customer service director; John Garner, CFO; Tom Nieman, VP of ­­marketing; Mark Henderson, senior VP global sales. Front row: Karen Carnivale, HR director; Aki Isoi, president; Dana Talich, finance director

Company Philosophies
Upon asking any executive at JCM what the company’s main concerns and philosophies are, the answer will almost always include customer service and employee appreciation. Isoi emphasized that customer service is always JCM’s No. 1 priority, by sharing this story: “Way back when the bill validator was still new to the industry, people were complaining because they didn’t know how to use this component. When I was still in Japan, I would get a phone call at 3 a.m. from IGT saying that they have a problem with our product and they need us to fix it. I assembled a team to go to the location, and when we got there nothing was wrong with it. People didn’t know how to use the bill validator; we just had to teach them.”

Isoi says that if you ask customers what they like about JCM, they will say responsiveness, and that they are often pleased not only with the product, but the way that employees take care of them as customers.

Mark Henderson, JCM’s senior vice president of global sales agrees, noting the importance of being a partner in the situation, not just a provider of a product. “It starts with JCM’s philosophy that we look at them as partners and we try to understand what they want to do,” he said. “We would rather not sell them something that we don’t think they need, versus selling them something they don’t need and then not have that relationship going forward.”

While customer satisfaction is a key proponent in JCM’s repertoire, Isoi points out that this cannot be accomplished without a team that has the right attitude. “For my people to do a good job and take care of the customers, I have to take care of my employees,” he said. “Unless they feel good about the company and product they represent, I don’t think they can do a good job.”

He also pointed out the unique aspect of combining Japanese and American culture, stating that he thinks that contributes to a top-notch team. Tom Nieman, JCM’s vice president of global marketing, also pointed that out. “Aki Isoi was raised on the belief that the customer is the absolute most important,” he said. “JCM is really regarded for what we do with our customers before the sale, at the time of the sale, and most importantly, after the sale. That’s been an overriding cultural element to JCM’s success.”

Another interesting aspect of JCM’s team is their requirement and dedication to education. Dave Kubajak, JCM’s director of customer service, says that when hiring employees, they look for candidates with degrees in engineering or electronics, and finds that most of their hires have military experience. “We look for high energy and passion,” he said. “We want people who want to be here because they want to be the best and work for the best company.”

JCM is a member of the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET), and takes that accreditation very seriously. According to Kubajak, who played a large role in this achievement, JCM was the first company in the gaming industry to have that kind of certification from an outside group. This affiliation also allows JCM to offer continuing education credits, used in classes for electronics or communication degrees.

Commitment to Responsible Gambling
In 1999, JCM did something fairly uncommon in the gaming industry. They partnered with the American Gaming Association (AGA), to raise money for the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) through a golf tournament. Now one of the most popular events in the industry, the Golf Classic is something that Isoi is quite proud of. “The money that we raise is used by the NCRG to fund problem gambling-related research projects worldwide,” he said. “I like to give back to the community and the industry.”
In fact, through this collaboration over the years, the Golf Classic has now raised more than $1 million for the NCRG.

Regarding this year’s Golf Classic, Frank Fahrenkopf, president and CEO of the AGA, said, “We are thrilled to have played a part in this truly exceptional year for the tournament—both in bringing the total raised for the NCRG to more than $1 million since the tournament’s inception and shattering the record for funds raised in a single year. Our industry has always stepped up when it comes to supporting research and education on responsible gaming, and this is yet another example of the industry putting its money where its mouth is. We thank everyone for their contributions and look forward to many more successful years to come.”

This year’s Golf Classic took place May 1 on the award-winning greens of Cascata in Boulder City, Nev. More than 130 players from across the gaming industry participated.

“We are overwhelmed and grateful for the outstanding outpouring of support the gaming industry has given to this event over the course of the last 14 years, and for stepping up and pushing us past our million dollar goal this year,” Isoi said. “Operators, suppliers, regulators, a test lab, gaming media—literally the entire industry was represented, and we are thrilled to be able to make such a large donation to the NCRG to help advance their incredibly vital work.”

Making Headlines
It’s no surprise that JCM has been making headlines these days, and the subjects of those stories are nothing short of impressive. In 2012 alone, some of the most notable include partnerships with Leap Forward Gaming, Nanoptix, TechFirm and MicroFirst; being named the preferred provider to Caesars Entertainment and IGT; as well as a plethora of installations around the country.

Regarding the honor of being named preferred partner, Isoi says this meant a lot to JCM, since both Caesars and IGT are among the biggest and most well-known companies in the industry. “Today IGT and JCM still maintain our relationship, that partnership, for more than 20 years,” he said. “That means a lot to me. They know they can count on JCM; they know we are always here for them.”

“Both of them were technology-based decisions,” Henderson added. “They believe in where we are going compared to anyone else out there. It’s great validation of the vision of the company and the nuts and bolts that the engineers are working with on in Japan and the creativity of the product guys here. It was quite a feather in our cap.”

That plethora of installations includes a record-setting achievement for JCM—installing 10,150 iVIZION® units and 3,750 PayCheck 4® printer units in just 30 days. JCM installed 2,100 iVIZION bill validators at Horseshoe Casino Cleveland; 1,800 iVIZION units at Scioto Downs; 2,000 iVIZION units at Hollywood Casino Toledo; 3,700 iVIZION units and 3,200 PayCheck 4 thermal printers at Maryland Live! Casino; and 550 iVIZION bill validators and 550 PayCheck 4 printers at Oxford Casino.

All of the installations took place in less than a 30-day time frame, which kicked off the most successful quarter in the company’s history.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the new relationships we have developed with operators across the country and around the world. To have achieved this level of success is remarkable, and speaks to the strength of our products and our total commitment to customer service,” Henderson said in a recent press release. “Operators everywhere are seeing how iVIZION and PayCheck 4 can transform their business. And with their open-ended architecture and future-proof technology, iVIZION and PayCheck will build on their foundation and keep operators seeing green for years to come.”

International Presence
Though most of JCM’s gaming business is rooted in Las Vegas, the company truly is global. JCM is headquartered in Japan, and the rest of the worldwide locations are referred to as JCM Global. The Las Vegas business covers North and South America, as well as Australia. JCM EMEA is based in Dusseldorf, Germany, covering Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Lastly, JCM Asia covers the Chinese market. According to Nieman, although they have a JCM Asia, the Las Vegas location covers Macau, Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Looking Ahead
While JCM’s focus is mainly on bill validators, the company understands the importance of being innovative, and is always on the lookout for ways to improve their products and add new ones to the lineup. “We’re not just a peripheral company that makes one widget and stays with that one widget,” Kubajak said. “We’re trying to bring in new technological innovation, which allows us to take this industry to the next level. JCM may be a peripheral company, but we want to bring that complete technology solution to you to help you manage your currency or your transactions from beginning to end. We are aggressively pursuing being involved in every aspect of that transaction management process.”

They prepare for these technological developments by always being aware of industry trends and advances. Nieman says that one of their philosophies is that if you don’t evolve, you become irrelevant. “If you look at our track record, we were the first company to put a bill validator in the gaming industry,” he explained. “We were the first company to introduce intelligence on the cash box. We were the first to introduce full-blown contact-image sensing for validation (iVIZION) the ability to capture the entire note, not just data points. We were the first company to really demonstrate NFC mobile technology. We were the first in our segment to show currency recycling. We’ll be the first to introduce wireless networking for components.”

The NFC mobile technology Nieman referred to is due in part to their partnership with TechFirm, the company that pioneered NFC in Japan and today is the foundation technology behind millions of fast food mobile transactions in Japan. Through this collaboration, the companies will create a system whereby casino patrons will be able to use their mobile phones to conduct transactions at gaming machines and other devices that use bill validators to accept both currency and mobile e-money.

“This new joint venture builds on JCM’s strategy of creating new patented solutions to deliver greater consumer choice, convenience and control while helping our clients grow their businesses,” Isoi said. “Just as TITO changed the industry, we believe this technology will also be a game-changer.”

Diversification is a strong objective for the team at JCM. They’ve already expanded their product offering, and plan to continue doing so. Their ever-growing list of offerings currently includes currency recognition/validation, operational intelligence/intelligent report, micro transport, magnetic and optical sensing, contact image sensing, bulk note acceptance, note recycling, note centering and thermal printing. Other innovative product features include the ability to dispense customer paper tokens, cash, coupons or tickets, barcode reading technology, smart cash box technology, international currency acceptance for up to 80 countries and much more.

As for the near future, JCM has something fantastic in the works for G2E, Nieman says. Without giving away too much confidential information, he mentioned: “I’ve been in this business for decades, but I have never been this excited for a trade show. We’re going to introduce a suite of applications that are dependent on the iVIZION that will help operators significantly improve operations, while providing greater security and accountability.”

Overall, the aspect that’s on top of everyone’s mind at JCM is the customers’ satisfaction. After all, as Isoi said, “When customers smile, I smile.”

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