American Payment Systems said a phone campaign helped it significantly increase compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard among its roughly 1,200 merchant clients.

The Omaha independent sales organization kicked off the phone effort Oct. 1, after trying a direct-mail campaign for three months with less-successful results.

PCI compliance rates have jumped to 48% now, from roughly 10% at the start of October, said Steven Cartwright, American Payment's chief financial officer.

"When you send [merchants] a letter, it's a passive contact that they can set aside," but a call is less easy for them to ignore, he said.

Phone campaigns could be more effective with small merchants because "you have instant two-way communication," said Cliff Gray, a product-services expert with Strawhecker Group, an Omaha consulting firm.

Many small merchants believe the PCI requirements are very technical, and "see an e-mail and think it is too complex. But they get a phone call and an explanation and they think they can manage it," he said.