The last 4 days have been AMAZING ... I was vacationing with my family on the Oregon Coast and every minute was savored ... Then, this morning, on our last day I received an email that a client did a chargeback. Not a great way to end a perfectly lovely vacation. This is the 3rd time I have dealt with this sorta thing since launching The Editor's Touch and by now I am able to keep a little bit calm and not get too angry ... but it's taken a while to get to this point. During the last year+ of running The Editor's Touch I have learned what to do to either avoid credit card chargebacks and/or what to do when chargeback is submitted. I thought I'd share a few of these tips on the blog:
THINGS TO DO BEFORE A CHARGEBACK HAPPENS
There are a few things you can always do to protect yourself 'while things are still happy' with your clients ... because you never know when someone may decide you didn't do your job.
- Reiterate Phone Call Conversations In An Email After: If you are a business owner who likes to have voice to voice connections more than written ones then take note: make sure you also have an email that recaps the phone convo for your records. Phone calls are not something you can submit for 'proof' later down the road ... if agreements are made on a call then how will anyone be held accountable if it never happens? Or, if it does happen but there is still confusion later ... always have written forms as 'hard evidence' of phone call agreements.
- Email When Things Are Sticky: I know that most people are like: if things are a bit cranky between me and a client I like to call so they can hear my tone .. Absolutely, I get it!! But with things like a chargeback if you can show a history of things going down a bad road then you can protect yourself better. Like, if a client just won't communicate with you or if there is constant confusion or if you have asked for materials or answers many times without getting what you need: it's important to ALSO communicate your frustration in an email that has a date stamped on it. I prefer phone calls too when things seem a bit grumpy - but I always back it up with an email explaining why I am frustrated.
- Have A Clear Contract That Talks About Non-Refundable Payments: If you take retainers for your services those should always be NON-REFUNDABLE. The point of a retainer is to book out your time so that you don't take other clients. If you are booking out a day, weekend, or chunk of time for a client then they absolutely need to pay you a retainer for that time. If they cancel or change their mind and you've turned away business for the time they retained then you need to keep that retainer << that is the whole point. If your contract clearly states that ALL RETAINERS are non-refundable then you should be fine with any chargebacks for these types of transactions.
- Take Screenshots Of Any 'Social Media' Plug Where Your Client Is THRILLED: Do I sound like a psycho?? Sorry!! Business isn't all cupcakes and rainbows ... in business you are dealing with people and people are not always reasonable. If you have a client who says on social media that they love the job you did: screenshot it! People do chargebacks for crazy reasons ... and one day they may decide that they need that money back or that they weren't as happy as they thought. Chargebacks are not just annoyoying, but they are financially a burden! The credit card company TAKES BACK THE MONEY you were paid while they figure out which side is right ... and that can take up to 3 months!!! So make sure you have everything you need to dispute these times - because as small business owners we can't all afford to just have money taken out of our accounts and held for 90 days.
- If You Agree To Refund A Portion Of A Payment Then Have A Contract Or Agreement For That: It's important that with any sort of monetary transaction you also have a contract or written agreement. Whenever I agree to refund a portion of funds paid to me I also have that client submit a new contract with the 'refund agreement' written out so we both know that this is the end of it - that there won't be any chargebacks or refunds in the future. Also, the agreement comes in handy if that client decides to do one anyway.
HOW TO HANDLE A CHARGEBACK WHEN IT HAPPENS
There is going to come a time when a client submits a chargeback and it's going to suck. But if you did most of the things above then you should be ok in the end. Below are some things to do when you dispute a chargeback.
- Never Dispute It While You Are Angry: Nobody can think clearly when they are pissed off and a credit card chargeback is something that is going to infuriate you, believe me. The first time I had to do this I was LIVID to the point of shaking and crying. I was so confused and wanted to understand how another business owner could do such a thing to someone who had fulfilled their end of the deal. I handled the disputing process from an emotional place rather than a calm one and even though I got the money back in the end and won the dispute, I'm sure there are a lot of steps I could have been more careful about had I not been so emotionally charged up. So when you get the first email about a chargeback take a minute to be angry and then sit down to dispute it when you have a clear head and can use your brain to untangle the matter.
- Go Through Every Email You And This Client Sent: You never know what could be hiding inside of an email. Go through every little thing to see if there is evidence inside to back up the fact that you did do your job and make sure you send all of those emails to the company in charge of fighting for you in this dispute. You can also take a screenshot of all the emails back and forth in your main inbox to show you were very communicative with your client.
- Be Patient: These disputes can take up to 90 days or more to have a decision made and during that time the money will be taken from your bank account. The best thing to do after you've submitted all the proof you have?? FORGET IT HAPPENED. If in 90 days they find in your favor it will be a nice little surprise to get that money back ... and if they find in your client's favor?? You will have forgotten about it and moved on.
Of course, you can just decide to never accept credit cards for payment ... but as a business owner that is nearly impossible :( Also, if you are getting all sorts of 'red flags' from someone before they hire you?? Maybe best to NOT take them on as a client to avoid any future issues.