Online Consumer Support

Melody L

Quickly! Can you find your customer support number? How about an email address? Can you navigate your website to find the information you would need to question a transaction or cancel a membership or seek a refund?

If you can’t find these pieces of information easily, you can be sure consumers who were billed by you can’t find them either.

If the consumer wants to cancel or get a refund, isn’t it better that you are the one having that conversation with the consumer rather than the consumer’s bank who has no vested interest in your business?

Providing this information only makes good business sense. If you think you are saving costs or delaying cancellations by making it difficult for a consumer to reach you, then you should be prepared for returned transactions, consumer complaints online and increased attention from your processing bank.

Not only can you suffer those obvious pains listed above, but you also open your business up to actions by the consumer protection agencies. Consumers are encouraged to file complaints with these organizations. One needs only to go to the agencies websites, follow them on twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn to see the constant reminder that if you, as a consumer, have a complaint, you can easily report it to them for further investigation. While you are there, you should also take note of all the hiring that is going on! More hiring means more pressure on the organizations to defend their budgets and inevitably it means more actions against merchants and merchant banks.

To assist your business in providing a good consumer experience that will lead to lower returns, lower fees, and less risk of retaliation by consumers and the agencies that protect them, review and implement this compilation of best practices and you will be well on your way to behaving as a good corporate citizen to consumers.

  • Display your customer service phone numbers and email addresses prominently on your landing page for customer support;
  • Display a link to support on your landing page and every page;
  • Answer your telephone 24/7;
  • Respond to emails within 24 hours;
  • Train your agents/employees about the payment methods you accept — not everyone pays by credit card;
  • Do not provide a sales pitch for another service while on hold for a consumer who just called in to question a charge;
  • Keep your hold times to less than a minute;
  • Provide an online environment that allows a consumer to self cancel their memberships;
  • Keep your corporate receptionist/employees updated on your current call center numbers; and,
  • Monitor your online complaints; that exercise will tell you how your company is handling your consumers.

Many of the items listed seem very obvious yet, in the last month I have witnessed every single one of these situations not being practiced.

One of the greatest concerns is that the people answering the phone do not understand that consumers are able to pay with payment instruments other than a credit card. If the consumer sees their charge on their bank statement, it is likely that their bank account information was used and not their bank debit card. If the CSR taking the call is insisting on a credit card number to identify the consumer, they will never find the transaction in question. Further, as a consumer who is questioning a charge on their bank statement, it is very unlikely that they would be feeling sufficiently generous to provide information about another of their payment instruments, namely their credit card, thereby further increasing their exposure to questionable charges.

The simple solution is that the first question on your customer service script be related to the payment type. Once the CSR knows the payment type, they can look up the charges using appropriate information.

When a consumer calls in to question charges on their statements, hearing a sales pitch for travel or identity protection, or debt services, or really anything is not increasing their comfort that this is a legitimate charge or that they wont be further billed.

This sales pitch may not even be your service but a technique your call center is using to increase their revenues. Check your situation and make any corrections that are necessary.

Finally, your business setup changes over time. Customer service numbers are changed or added, new providers are used and it is imperative that you tell your front desk or anyone in your company who may receive a consumer call about these changes.

If the consumer is willing to call you, then call the next number that is provided to them, make sure that number is right because the third call will be to their bank and they will be telling their bank about the run around they had just received. The bank, in turn, is much more willing to send the transaction back as unauthorized as a result of the lack of customer service being provided from that merchant.

Be accessible because if the consumer wants to cancel or get a refund, isn’t it better that you are the one having that conversation with the consumer rather than the consumer’s bank who has no vested interest in your business?

Melody L is chief operating officer for L3 Payments.