Resolving Online Consumer Disputes for E-Commerce Business

If you’re running a small business with limited resources, dispute resolution can be very time consuming and sometimes may result in monetary loss. No matter how good the customer service you provide, there will always be problems that will arise between you and the customers that’s not within your control.

If you know what you’re doing, you can always deal with this quickly and efficiently using logic. But sometimes when you encounter a more difficult customer who refuse to be reasonable, it can be quite stressful as it may turn into a dispute. There’s no one way in resolving online disputes. It all boils down to the situation and how you adjust to it.

For those of you who sell online either through your own e-commerce site, Etsy or eBay, the most nerve-wrecking process which always cause the most problem will be the shipping part especially when you ship internationally. Let me rant a little on my recent experience and I’ll share with you how I overcame it along the way.

Besides the bloody long shipping time, I usually have no issue using just standard shipping with tracking number through my local national post for my shipment to US and Europe. While express shipping courier services such as FedEx, TNT and DHL are more reliable and quicker, it just doesn’t make business sense for me to use them for such low margin products. I would probably be making loss. Also, I don’t see why my customers need to pay more for shipping as compared to the products.

Just recently, effective October 2015, USPS no longer tracks the packages from certain countries. So, the nightmare begins…

My customers started contacting me that they haven’t receive their packages and the shipping status has not been updated. If they haven’t receive it for over a month, I would consider them lost and replace the items immediately at no additional cost to them. I have two customers, upon shipping out the replacement packages, contacted me to inform me that they have received the original packages that were sent earlier. They asked me what they should do since I’ve already replaced the items. Since they were so nice and honest about the whole situation, I told them to keep the items anyway.

Then came this really nasty customer that was really suspicious to me. It seemed to me that she knew enough to take advantage of the whole situation as I later found out her husband works at USPS. She would know that there was no way USPS or I could prove that she has or has not received the package except to accept her words for it.

Be Firm but in a Polite Way and Stay Professional.

Less than 12 working days after product was shipped, the customer asked if I could refund her if she doesn’t receive the package before Christmas. I politely explained to her that I have no control over USPS if delivery is delayed. I never promise her a refund for delayed shipment and certainly it’s not my store policy. However, I did inform her that my policy stated that customers are entitled for replacement if the package is damaged/ lost/ misplaced/ stolen. Anyhow, I decided to grant her the product refund minus the shipping fee if she doesn’t receive her package on the first week of December. She just need to inform me then.

Respond Quickly.

Oh boy she was impatient. Came December 1st, before the end of the week even, she sent me a message again stating that she didn’t receive her package and asked for refund. I was in the midst of writing to her that I would process her refund and at the same time, I was planning to really give the post office a piece of my mind causing us all these trouble by not tracking our shipment even after we’ve paid for the tracking service. Before I could send her a reply, she had already filed a case against me with PayPal, requesting for full refund.

Reason with the Customer if You’re Not at Fault. Provide Option and Support.

I explained to her again that shipping delay is out of my control but I would be more than happy to refund her the product cost minus shipping fee because we couldn’t prove whether or not she received the package. I also provided the explanation regarding how the shipping status was not being updated due to change in USPS’ policy, which at this point of time, I was pretty sure she was aware of it.

I offered her the option of immediate refund minus the shipping cost or we would just let PayPal makes the decision on the case. She chose the latter, still standing on the ground that the package is lost!

I didn’t agree with her because I have had customers who eventually receive their packages but I didn’t want to argue with her. Again, I couldn’t bloody prove it! Grrr……

Provide Evidences and Solid Proof

Now that she had already filed a case with PayPal, they needed me to provide information to them to assist in their investigation. They will then make a decision whether or not to deduct the money paid to me and refund it to her. This was the part I was excited about because I knew the odds will be in my favour because I had the proof that I made the product and shipped it out. On top of that, I also had the screenshots of our messages to counter her false accusations of me not wanting to take responsibility and that I wasn’t nice to her. I compiled all evidences and sent it to PayPal.


Resolve it Anyhow and Move On Even Though You’re Not Happy with the Decision.

The buyer got what she wanted. PayPal decided to refund her but at no cost to me because they thought it was a unique circumstance. They cannot prove that she received the package but I have proven that I have shipped it. The losing party was myself and PayPal. The winning party was the buyer because not only that she had her refund, she most probably had or will receive her package. While I appreciate what PayPal has done for me, I feel bad for them. I hope this buyer will not pull the same shit with other sellers. However frustrated I was, I decided to move on and focus my energy on my other customers who have been supportive of me all these years.

So there you go…to sum up, when it comes to managing dispute:

  1. Stay Firm but in a Polite Way and Stay Professional.
  2. Respond Quickly.
  3. Reason with the Customer if You’re Not at Fault. Provide Option and Support.
  4. Provide Evidences and Solid Proof.
  5. Resolve it Anyhow and Move On Even Though You’re Not Happy with the Decision.

I did what I thought was best at that moment but I believe I could have handled it better. What would you have done? Share your thoughts if you have any.