Bio: Frank has been writing about merchant services, payment gateways, and international money transfer services since 2015. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State and a Juris Doctorate from the Ventura College of Law. After a long and enjoyable career of traveling around the world as an Air Force navigator, he’s comfortably settled down in the wine country town of Paso Robles in California’s scenic Central Coast region. He enjoys reading, photography, hiking, and numerous other outdoor pursuits.
QUESTION #1: How are business strategies adapting in response to COVID-19 conditions?
It depends on the business. E-commerce-only businesses probably don’t need to make any significant adjustments. Retail businesses, however, should definitely add an e-commerce channel if they don’t already have one. This includes a robust business website and usually a payment gateway as well to be able to accept online sales. Again, specific strategies will depend on the nature of the business. If a business doesn’t already have a dedicated website, they should definitely add one, in most cases. Gas stations are probably one example of a business that doesn’t need a website, but most other businesses should have a dedicated site and not just rely on a Facebook page or something similar.
Integrated payment systems that tie physical processing hardware (terminals, mobile card readers, POS systems) together with a payment gateway and store all of a merchant’s business data in the cloud have been gaining in popularity over the last few years and with COVID, they’re even more important. This kind of system allows you to access your business data from any device, unlike a POS system that sits in your shop and isn’t mobile. This kind of system essentially allows you to run your business from just about anywhere. Most major merchant services providers today offer an integrated payment system. The one caveat is that they’re almost always proprietary, so you want to have a data migration strategy in place before signing up, just in case you decide to change your merchant account provider later on.
For retailers, now is definitely the time to upgrade to contactless (EMV) payments, if you haven’t done so already. NFC-based methods such as Apple Pay and Google Pay allow customers to make payments with their smartphones or watches. Depending on how your terminal is configured, a customer might still have to touch the machine to enter their PIN number, so keep the hand sanitizer close by.
Finally, if your business has incurred significant additional expenses due to the pandemic (i.e., masks, hand sanitizer, PPE, signage, etc.), consider a COVID surcharge to pass at least some of this expense onto your customers. While we generally don’t recommend this approach given the negative response you will get from your customers, it might make the difference if you’re perilously close to going out of business.
QUESTION #2: How does your company prepare for the holidays return abuse?
While all merchant services providers have an interest in helping you to prevent chargebacks, not all of them offer special services to scan for “red flags” before approving a transaction. Check with your provider to add this type of service to your account, if it’s available. Unfortunately, “friendly fraud” is on the rise, and the current regulatory system for dealing with chargebacks hasn’t evolved from its original consumer-friendly purpose to account for this type of activity.
Forter: Returns Abuse is likely to greatly impact retailers into the New Year as on average, 30% of customers will return what they bought online from you during the holidays, and the vast majority will do so within the first month of the post-holiday season. However, by partnering with the right fraud prevention and abuse partner, returns don’t have to be bad for businesses. Customers are drawn to brands that have flexible and convenient returns policies. In order to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded online market, businesses must be able to offer customer benefits while ensuring they aren’t losing money in the process.
QUESTION #3: Work From Home (WFH) security: Any tips/insights that make your remote employees successful at what they do?
In today’s world, you should probably be doing these things already whether you work from home or not, but here’s a list of common-sense tips to improve your productivity and keep your work secure:
- Passwords – Follow basic password security practices, which means not using generic or easily-guessed passwords. Also, don’t reuse passwords. Invest in a good password manager (I like 1Password, but LastPass and others are also good) and use it.
- 2FA – Enable two-factor authentication on all accounts that offer it. Authenticator apps such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator can make this a lot less of a headache.
- Upgrade and secure your internet connection. You’ll want to invest in the fastest internet connection available in your area, especially if you have multiple household members working from home and attending school online during the day. Use a strong password to secure your WiFi network. We’ve also found that a mesh network with multiple routers eliminates dead spots in your house and ensures that everyone has a strong signal. Finally, invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to keep your browsing secure. This is particularly important if you’ll be accessing sensitive business data from home.
Forter: As noted in our COVID-19: Special Report, fraudsters are abusing the fact that most companies are currently operating on WFH practices and personnel in general are less aware of these types of fraud attempts and less able to stop them. As such, both businesses and individual consumers should ensure they take the proper precautions to secure their personal information and data.