Negative Reviews Could Affect Your Merchant Account Application
May 2, 2018 5-MINUTE READ
Negative reviews might affect your chances of getting a merchant account approved! Does the following story sound familiar? Say you’re a subscription, adult, dating, business opportunity, cosmeceutical, or nutraceutical merchant and you’ve been processing for a year or more. Your business generates five to six figures every month. Your company is growing and needs another merchant account. You apply on your own to multiple processors and acquiring banks. And then BOOM! You get rejected by all of them!
In the first place, your business model alone is high risk. Secondly, you are high risk AND your online reputation stinks. Double whammy! A few negative opinions aren’t a problem. It’s many pages of hostile comments scattered over the Internet that can affect whether you get approved or declined for a merchant account.
Throughout DirectPayNet’s history we have worked with multi-million dollar, high-risk merchants (even MATCH-listed ones) that often run into this nightmare. With our custom-tailored advice, they increase sales conversions, reduce fraud, and more importantly, repair their reputation. The result is merchant account approval! Here’s how you can survive negative reviews, too.
High risk + negative reviews can spell trouble
Have you already Googled your own company? You might see disparaging remarks about your product or service. Sites like BBB.org, Yelp and RipOffReport publish customer opinions all the time. Sometimes they’re anonymous. Negative reviews are normal for top-earning online businesses. Where merchants go wrong is when they don’t do anything about it.
Acquiring banks and processors hate risk. When they see negative content about a merchant online they immediately look for more.Whether or not the information is misleading or untrue makes no difference! There’s no incentive for a bank to approve you, because they are in the business of protecting their bottom line. Banks presume your business could affect their financial situation and contracts with credit card companies.
Take control of your online reputation. The first step is to hire an in-house community manager. This person should be designated to manage your reputation online. If a community manager isn’t feasible, find someone else in-house like a customer service representative that can dedicate up to 5 hours per week. A customer service representative is great, because they routinely handle client inquiries and complaints in your organization.
Your reputation manager should respond to negative comments online and offline. They should be a pro at customer support, social media management and be persuasive. Additionally, set up Google Alerts. One alert can include your brand name and keywords like reviews or customer reviews resulting in real-time updates. Another can include any tag relevant to your business so replies can be actioned immediately.
Seek an expert outside of your firm if you have no in-house talent to fight your critics. Hire a reputable and qualified SEO company to improve your reputation. Your SEO team should aim to get negative reviews indexed beyond page 3 instead of them being on 1 and 2.
Responding to your critics
Another step in the fight for your online reputation is to respond to negative reviews in a timely fashion! Over the years we’ve found that when high-risk, high-earning merchants implement fast response times to customer complaints they see a 45% decrease in chargeback incidents within 60 days.
The ideal response time should be within 24-48 hours! The longer negative comments go unanswered the worse your business looks depending on the severity of statements made. Have your community manager privately ask formerly unhappy customers to change their opinions about your product or service if you’ve remedied the situation. You may be surprised to find that your customers appreciate that their grievances were heard, and they end up agreeing to edit their review.
Moreover, it’s tempting to delete negative comments on your own website. This never bodes well for any merchant, as the Internet doesn’t forget. However, it may be warranted to ask the owner of an external website to remove a negative review if you’ve explained why the issue happened and someone is slandering your company.
Earlier we mentioned BBB.org as one of many sites online that publish reviews about businesses. If you are already registered there, make sure your profile is updated and clean. If you don’t have a published profile as yet do so, as it will be good for PR. Any company in the US and Canada can register on the site for free. Your goal should be to get an excellent rating. Monitor it regularly, because it can change at any time. Clearly, adopt measures to improve low scores right away by responding to negative complaints and reviews. If your business manages to achieve a superior rating, you can apply to become a BBB Accredited Business!
It might be time for a refund policy makeover
Sometimes disgruntled customers leave bad reviews about you online. However, if you pay attention to those remarks, you might discover the solution to their problem is already in your organization. Customers often complain about money (e.g. a company stole it or didn’t refund it). If customers complain about not getting their money back, it might be a good time to review your refund policy.
Not addressing customer complaints about refunds can result in unwanted chargebacks. This is dangerous, because it can ruin your processing history and your online reputation. This is especially detrimental for merchant account applications. (Processing history is essential for merchant account approval.) Here are a couple of solutions to prevent this.
First, review your refund and cancellation policies. Make sure it’s clearly communicated on your website. Acquiring banks look at these pages with a fine-tooth comb. You should do the same. How many days do refunds take? Did you clearly state the return address where the customer can send their order or cancel their subscription? Are return shipping costs involved and clearly described on your website?
Determine if you’re allowing a reasonable number of days for refunds to be requested. Some merchants have a 10-day refund policy. Perhaps you might need to be flexible and increase that to 15 or 30 days. Regardless of the number of days you allow for returns make sure it is clearly stated. It should be clear in your refund policy, terms and conditions, and cancellation policy too.
Also, train customer service to respond to requests more efficiently and quickly. Clearly communicating the number of days allowed for refunds and when they will be issued can prevent customers from bashing your brand online. This is crucial for preventing chargebacks. Equally it can mitigate negative reviews from happening in the first place.
Smear campaigns can hurt you
Donald Trump may have coined the phrase “fake news” but long before in the ecommerce world, fake reviews were and still are a thing!
The larger and more successful your business, the more haters you will have! That includes competitors who are desperate to ruin your reputation. Time and again we’ve seen this happen to our multi-million dollar clients. They get attacked with negative reviews and after a little research they learn it’s their competition causing the damage.
It’s important to do some research online to learn about the profiles and motives for discrediting your business. Have your community manager gather data about the people posting the negative reviews. Are they using real names or posting anonymously? Does their location in their review match their location cited in their order? Respond to the complaints and ask for an email, proof of purchase like a customer ID or some other transaction details to help remedy the situation. In some cases, no response from the customer might mean that their negative review is indeed a fake complaint.
If it’s possible, learn about the IP location of those anonymous, angry reviewers. If you get tangible proof of a smear campaign, you might feel compelled to take it to court.
Have your community manager conduct an audit of reviews found on the first three pages of Google. Develop a plan for gathering concrete evidence showing that your competitor is ruining your reputation. When enough evidence is collected, some merchants take legal action against the suspected individuals and organizations. There have been court cases that have resulted in convictions and fines over matters like this.
Some competitors lack creativity and innovation and are too lazy to win clients the honourable way. Therefore, be on alert, because they could be trying to steal your thunder!
Talk to your merchant service provider about negative reviews
Merchants don’t understand the merchant account application process thoroughly, but a good service provider will. It’s important to have a good relationship with an acquiring bank or processor. Most merchants end up sabotaging their efforts by applying to multiple banks with no plan or strategy, which could result in penalties! Few are aware that this leaves a negative impression with processors. Worse your credit score can take a hit.
Most banks are conservative by nature. As a result, high-risk merchants go through strict investigation. That’s why a service provider is there: we are advocates to help you navigate the process. The right provider can strategically guide you to approval through their acquiring bank relationships.
Seasoned providers don’t just fill in a form. It’s our duty to inform you about compliance, policies and regulations that might affect your application. Additionally, we negotiate pricing and work to get your high-risk businesses approved so they earn more revenue. DirectPayNet is very strategic in finding the right processor long-term. Service providers should be offering recommendations on how to be more compliant to gain an approval for your next merchant account. This by itself is a gamble and waste of your valuable time, especially if you’re on the verge of being or already are MATCH-listed.
The above is just a look at how cleaning up negative reviews and your online reputation doesn’t happen instantly. However, the effort proves invaluable for trying to get your next merchant account application approved.
Do you need another merchant account, but are too busy? Run out of options? Contact our experienced team so we can help you find a solution today!