Supply Chain Chargeback Management
Tracking down the root causes of chargebacks can lead you to strange places. Sometimes, the reason code or the cardholder’s stated explanation will point you to an obvious cause, but it’s often the case that the true source of the cardholder’s dissatisfaction is someplace you didn’t expect to find it. In fact, the root cause of a chargeback doesn’t always fall under your immediate sphere of control. Issues can spring up at any point in the supply chain, impacting the quality or function of your product and causing your end customers to feel cheated or misled.
In a retail business, whoever manages the supply chain—whether that’s the sole proprietor in a small business or a dedicated role in a larger organization—needs to be involved in the planning and execution of your chargeback defense strategies. Ideally, the supply chain manager should be monitoring chargebacks companywide, so that they can leverage their knowledge of the vendors and processes in your supply chain to connect the logical dots between supply chain issues and customer chargebacks.
Chargebacks and Your Supply Chain
Problems further up the supply chain can lead to your customers not receiving an order on time, or receiving a damaged or defective product. Whether or not you, as the merchant, are responsible for causing or fixing these problems is a moot point to the customer. They paid for a product that works properly and does what it’s supposed to do, and if they don’t get that, they’re going to want their money back and they’ll be looking for the easiest way to make that happen. If the easiest way is to dispute the transaction with their bank and demand a chargeback, that’s what they’re going to do.
When all is said and done, the liability for chargebacks falls on the merchant. Pointing fingers and saying “actually, it’s our supplier’s fault” is not going to help you fight a chargeback and represent the transaction. Fair or not, identifying these problems and figuring out how to remedy them is the merchant’s responsibility.
Chargebacks can be complex problems with multiple contributing factors, so as with everything else, the buck stops with owners and executives—appointing a fall guy to blame for your chargebacks isn’t going to make them go away. It is, however, a good idea to foster awareness of chargebacks and their potential root charges at every level of your organization.
Who’s Responsible for Chargebacks in Your Company?
In a sole proprietorship or a business with just a few employees, each person wears many hats and it’s obvious that chargebacks are everyone’s problem. In a larger organization with delegated responsibilities, it’s easy for employees who aren’t directly involved in dealing with chargebacks to think that chargebacks aren’t their concern. This, of course, is the kind of thinking that makes it harder for merchants to uncover and address the root causes of their chargebacks.
Your marketing department might not think they have anything to do with causing chargebacks, but it happens fairly often: marketers go a little overboard hyping the product, the customer gets unrealistic expectations about what the product can do for them, and when they finally buy it, they’re disappointed—even though there’s nothing actually wrong with it.
The supply chain manager should also be in the loop when it comes to ongoing chargeback situations. That way, they can figure out if issues with suppliers, manufacturers, or other parties or processes in the supply chain are causing frustration for your customers, and get things back on track where needed.
Treating chargebacks as a companywide problem can yield benefits that go beyond just reducing your chargebacks (although that is certainly a worthy goal in itself). When we talk about “fixing the root causes of chargebacks,” we’re talking about making improvements to crucial elements of your business operations: quality control, fulfillment, customer service, and more. Fixing the problems that lead to chargebacks means that all of your customers will be receiving better service, higher quality products, faster deliveries, and other positive outcomes.
Sources of Supply Chain Chargebacks
When you can trace a chargeback back to the supply chain process, it means that some step in that process has failed, causing inconvenience, dissatisfaction, and unnecessary costs. Here are some common chargeback causes that supply chain managers should be keeping an eye out for:
- Shipment data is transmitted late or not at all, causing delivery delays or product unavailability
- Poor or inadequate product packaging, causing damage or late arrival
- Unscannable or incorrect product labeling, causing customers to receive the wrong items
- Products not built or shipped to specifications (wrong color, materials, size, etc.)
Remember, though, that not every chargeback will have a cause that’s immediately logical and obvious. If the reason for some of your chargebacks is still a mystery, you have to dig deeper or engage in more sophisticated data analytics.
As with many operational facets of modern business, the supply chain is marching into the future with machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate and optimize it, reducing the workload for supply chain managers and helping to get products to customers faster, more accurately, and with fewer quality issues. That said, human intelligence is still required when it comes to solving subtle, multi-layered problems that can be impacted by multiple processes within a business—such as discovering the root causes of chargebacks.
Understanding the root causes of your chargebacks is the single most important thing you can do if you want to prevent them from happening and keep your chargeback rate down. No matter how good you are at fighting chargebacks, prevention is always cheaper than the cure.
If you don’t figure out the root causes of recurring chargebacks, you’re exposing yourself to getting repeatedly hit with the same kind of chargeback. Root causes within the supply chain can be difficult to trace, because they’re occurring outside of your immediate locus of control and you may not have full visibility into what’s going on with third-party suppliers and manufacturers. The person in your company who works most closely with these parties is in the best position to understand what’s going on and how to fix it, so make sure you explicitly enlist their help in your battle against chargebacks.