Documenting contact with a customer can help a merchant successfully fight a chargeback.

Fraud is big. Not just because of the sizeable losses it causes (to the tune of $7 billion, but also because of the many different forms fraud takes. One manifestation dominates the rhetoric; the kind of fraud committed by organized crime rings and identity thieves. Yet, there is an equally costly iteration of fraud that isn’t as well known.

Instead of a masked thief behind a computer, friendly fraud’s culprit takes the form on an unsuspecting legitimate customer. Whether it’s confusion, misunderstanding, or muddied communication, a customer finds it necessary to forcibly reverse a payment by contacting their bank. But this time the accusation of fraudulent activity is pointed directly at you: the merchant.

There are two ways in which customer service helps prevent and resolve customer disputes. The first is by acting as the first line of defense, effectively stopping disputes from ever occurring. The second is through diligence in documentation of customer service interactions, enabling solid compelling evidence used to recover lost revenue lost to disputes.  

Customer service as a fraud-prevention method

Oftentimes friendly fraud happens when it’s easier for a customer to dispute a purchase with their bank than to carry out a legitimate return with your business. If a customer is unhappy and wants to reach out to you, when your phone number is easy to find, they will contact you. At the same time, if it’s easier to dispute the purchase with their bank, they will do that instead.

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Considering that disputing a purchase is as easy as making a few clicks in an online banking portal, you need to provide customers with an abundance of ways to get in touch with you.

  • Phone Number. Your customer service phone number should be included in every customer touchpoint. It should also be displayed prominently on your website, in the website’s footer, in the descriptor on the bank statement, confirmation emails, etc.
  • Live Chat. Implementing live chat capabilities onto your website allows customers to contact you easily, without picking up the phone.

Friendly fraud also happens as a result of customer confusion or miscommunication. The confusion often comes as a result of unclear merchant descriptors on their bank statements. While miscommunication runs rampant around out-of-stock products, shipping delays, and similar situations.

  • Merchant Descriptors. Most merchant descriptors are composed of two variables; usually your DBA [doing business as] Name and a City. The card issuer determines how many characters appear for each variable, so it’s best to keep your DBA Name under 22 characters and the City field less than 11 characters. Use the City field to show either your website address or your phone number. Doing so hedges your bets in jogging a customer’s memory about a transaction.
  • Order Status Communications. When you’re fulfilling order after order, it’s easy for communication on delays and/or backordered items to fall through the cracks. However, the customer has grounds for a dispute if the merchandise never arrived, regardless of a merchant’s inventory issues. Keep communication open and constant to any customers who may experience delays in receiving their products.

Customer service as a fraud-resolution method

It’s impossible to prevent all instances of fraud, no matter how robust your customer service efforts. However, documented customer service interactions lay the groundwork for responding to the disputes that do happen with comprehensive and compelling evidence.

When a customer disputes a purchase, the merchant is given the opportunity to represent the evidence to the issuing bank to prove the legitimacy of the purchase in question. Documented customer service interactions can provide the compelling evidence needed to refute the customer’s claims.

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  • Dispute Situation: The customer disputes a purchase on the grounds that the merchandise did not match the description given on the website.
  • Compelling Evidence: Documented customer service interactions post-purchase clearly displaying customer acknowledgement and satisfaction with the product received. Merchants can provide that evidence to the issuing bank. While screenshots of product descriptions on your website are a great start, actual confirmation from the customer himself regarding the transaction in question is powerful enough to overturn a dispute.

 

  • Dispute Situation: The customer disputes a purchase, citing fraud, when he or she previously tried to return the item.
  • Compelling Evidence: If a customer attempted to return an item that he or she is now claiming to be purchased under fraudulent circumstances, it’s clear that the purchase wasn’t actually fraudulent. By providing the issuing bank with documentation of previous attempts to return, the dispute can be ruled in favor of the merchant.

Aggregated customer service data is one of the most powerful tools merchants have to respond to customer disputes, prove cases of friendly fraud, and recover revenue that otherwise would have been surrendered. Better yet, outstanding customer service is the best tool merchants have to prevent friendly fraud from ever reaching their business.

Chargeback.com provides chargeback-management software for online retailers.

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