We’ve written in this space extensively about the online threats that can plague a high risk merchant, whether it’s an e-commerce business or a brick and mortar. All merchants should frankly assume that their sensitive data is consistently under attack, information such as:
- Customer credit card information which can be sold via rogue websites.
- Personal information, particularly bank account numbers, social security number or any clues leading to such.
Think of it as online warfare, but don’t think of yourself as defenseless even though there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution. There are a plethora of solutions out there which are proven deterrents for hackers.
But it’s not just hackers, which present a perennial threat in and of themselves. Customer reviews can be just — if not more — damaging for an online business.
The online threat you must prevent (and how to prevent it)
A high risk merchant has no choice but to protect his or herself in the current climate. We hear about the major retailers that have suffered breaches such as Target, Home Depot and Sally Beauty. Little known is the fact that major retailers make up less than 10 percent of all businesses that suffer breaches. Criminals target small businesses because most of them don’t have or think they can’t afford to have the proper security measures in place. It is the small e-commerce businesses who suffer the most — and don’t make the headlines.
At the very least, small business merchants are wise to take these three precautions:
- Outsource your payment platform: To hackers, time is valuable. The majority of whom don’t want to work too hard and will move on to another target once their initial schemes fail to penetrate a merchant’s database. When merchants outsource their payment platform, it’s another (significant) hurdle for a criminal to penetrate.
- Maintain PCI DSS Compliance certification: Becoming PCI DSS compliant — Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard — means complying by a set of security standards when accepting credit card payments. It is a very effective deterrent — not mandatory in the U.S. — and PCI DSS merchants are absolved of any liability in the occurrence of a breach.
- Invest in and implement a web application firewall: Firstly, always download those security updates when notified. Security updates come randomly and thus, merchants may overlook them or forget. A web application firewall acts as a virtual patch for those occasions.
The online threat a high risk merchant forgets about
Consumers have become very powerful, and many take to the internet to voice their grievances. The majority of consumers, we believe, are likely to leave a merchant a negative review online rather than over the phone or face-to-face. Consumers feel safe, more empowered behind a keyboard than they do in person.
While a high risk merchant has no alternative than to protect themselves from hackers and other forms of fraud, they also must sharpen their customer service skills — not only to protect themselves from negative reviews, but from the chargebacks that may result. Qualities such as common courtesy, a empathetic ear and negotiation skills are a must. So is prominent contact information and a return policy on your website — the least a high risk merchant can do.
Let’s take it a step further:
- Offer a discount on the next purchase
- Free, next-day or two-day shipping
- Include some small extra products with the next shipment
Additionally, offering a response to each negative review on an online forum is highly recommended. It should include an apology and an offer to contact and negotiate the dispute. Though a response may be ignored, it is showing other viewers that you’re conscientious and open-minded to what customers think. Such actions go a long way in winning over and maintaining customers.
We’d love your feedback
Are you a high risk merchant who effectively wards off threats and deals with reviews on a regular basis? Please share your strategy in the comments section below.
As always, our high risk merchant account experts are available in our Portsmouth, NH, USA, office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Instabill doesn’t just help you launch your business, we remain on hand as consultants for the life of the merchant account relationship.