Strong customer relationships are the backbone of any business. When your customers are happier and more satisfied, the more likely they are to return for more purchases, share social media and word-of-mouth recommendations, and be more tolerant of merchant errors. Yes, a happy customer is more likely to accept or understand merchant errors or missteps.
The key, however, is to ensure that these errors and missteps don’t happen during the first contact with the customer. When this happens, the customer gets a sour taste which can lead to a decline in the merchant-customer relationship, resulting in friendly fraud and chargebacks.
It’s important to refresh your perspective on the fact that customers are human and susceptible to making errors, although there is typically little room for customer forgiveness with merchant errors. This intolerance for mistakes speaks to the need for merchants to focus on improving customer relationships and in making customer service a high priority.
Merchant Customer Service
Most merchants know that proactive and effective customer service is an integral component of a business success plan. However, even with this understanding that customer service is vital to customer retention, business growth, brand loyalty, and reputation-building, merchants often make avoidable mistakes that put them in jeopardy of losing their strong customer base.
Here are some important points that all merchants should adhere to and reinforce with their customer service team:
- Customer service doesn’t happen once, it’s an ongoing process and relationship, occurring before, during, and after the purchase.
- Good customer service requires that money, time, and resources be spent on training employees.
- Consistent revenue depends on customer service, which should be part of internal reviews on how to improve an organization’s fiscal health.
- Customer service can change a customer’s opinion of a merchant—for good or bad.
So, what does this have to do with chargebacks? Stated plainly, good customer service is a merchant’s first line of defense against chargebacks. The better a merchant communicates with customers to proactively prevent chargebacks from occurring, the better for everyone involved.
Customer Service Practices for Chargeback Prevention
To make things easier for the customer service team and to prevent customer stress and dissatisfaction, merchants would do well to remember key aspects of friendly fraud and chargeback fraud prevention.
- Order review: Before finalizing an order, review it carefully to make sure there are no duplicate orders in the system or immediate emails from the customer following the order. Duplicate orders indicate a problem with payment processing that can result in a future chargeback.
- Clear return/refund policy: Make your e-commerce return/refund policy clear, visible, and accessible on your website and email confirmation. Many customers want to review this policy before placing an order. If it’s hard to find or understand, the level of trust for the merchant drops. This policy can also be key in a representment case.
- Move quickly: In the case of a refund, do this as quickly as possible. Let the customer know the status of the refund and give the customer a chance to speak to someone in customer services if necessary. A slow refund response or no response can compel the customer to file a chargeback out of frustration and lack of information.
- Be available: Clearly display customer service contact information on the website (the footer is a good location). Depending on the product or service, a chat window can be useful to immediately answer any customer questions. Respond to emails as quickly as possible and be forthcoming about any issues that may contribute to a slow order delivery, mistaken delivery, etc. Clarity with the customer goes a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship.
- Shipping options and policy: Give customers a date or estimated date of arrival. This helps to prevent the customer from filing a chargeback, should they become frustrated because it took too long for the item to arrive. If possible, provide a tracking number and shipping confirmation email to the customer.
- Contact the customer: With a proven solution in place, it’s likely that merchants can see when an unexpected or large order has been placed from a customer. When this happens, phone the customer to confirm this purchase. If the order turns out to be invalid, there’s a good chance you’ll prevent an incidence of theft and a subsequent chargeback.
- Be flexible with the rules: There are times when it pays to ignore the refund/return or cancellation policy and give the customer the benefit of the doubt. Just as merchants make mistakes, customers do as well. Review the customer’s order history and use your best judgment when deciding how rigid to be in applying company policies.
These recommendations are just a start for merchants who are focused on making customer service a business priority. Each business niche has its own inherent customer service recommendations and standard practices. But the underlying principles are clear: communicate, be available, be responsive, and be personable.
Smart Solutions for Proactive Customer Service
Supporting your customer service team and providing them the resources to be proactive with customers requires access to key customer information. Using a solution such as Verifi’s Order Insight can bridge the knowledge gap, making it possible to develop strong customer relationships that last year-over-year.