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Monica Eaton-Cardone of Chargebacks911: “Don’t be afraid of failure ”

You have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to provide customers with the best experience possible. While it’s important to have solid and comprehensive policies and procedures, you need to be flexible in how you exercise these policies. If you need to bend the rules a little to provide a customer with an […]

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You have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to provide customers with the best experience possible. While it’s important to have solid and comprehensive policies and procedures, you need to be flexible in how you exercise these policies.

If you need to bend the rules a little to provide a customer with an excellent experience, it could be worthwhile to do so. This way, you build a positive brand impression and secure that customer’s loyalty. They will also share their positive experience with others, thereby building your reputation over time.


As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Eaton-Cardone, an international entrepreneur, speaker, and author. She possesses more than two decades of experience in the eCommerce space as both a merchant and service provider, and is one of the world’s leading experts on payments and consumer disputes. Monica is the Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911® (https://chargebacks911.com/), a global risk mitigation firm helping online merchants optimize their profitability through chargeback management. Chargebacks911 has more than 350 employees globally, with offices in North America and Europe.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Of course, I’m always grateful for the opportunity share my story!

Before entering the payments industry, I actually started out as an eCommerce merchant. We were seeing a spike in chargebacks, and had no way of knowing where they were coming from or even what they meant. It got to the point where we were in danger of breaching the chargeback thresholds established by Visa and Mastercard.

I spent so much time and money looking for a solution, but nothing offered what I needed. I realized that if I wanted to solve the problem, I would need to come up with my own solution. I devoted myself to learning everything possible about chargebacks and payments and, in the end, developed a comprehensive strategy to stop them.

The word got out and I started getting requests from other merchants who were experiencing the same problem. I soon realized that this was so much bigger than just me. I started Chargebacks911 in 2012 as a consulting operation, initially intending to operate it as a side business. The demand for our services grew rapidly, and before long, the demands went far beyond what I’d ever anticipated. Chargebacks911 quickly became my main focus.

Since 2012, we’ve expanded into an international brand with 350 employees in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

When we first started out, we adopted an accelerated approach for everything. There was so much we wanted to accomplish all at once. I think many startups go through this stage, and while it works initially, you can’t maintain that breakneck pace for long.

As we became more established and were working with more institutional brands, we needed to pivot and create a more stable strategy. It was a learning curve, for sure. We were basically making up our path as we went. It was hard to feel like we would ever reach a plateau and feel stable enough to really dig deep again. It took a period of trial-and-error, but we finally found our way to a sustainable position and were able to focus on growing.

I think what motivated all of us was knowing that we had something really special on our hands. We had the ability and the knowledge to really change the game for merchants, and we knew that our solutions and technology were revolutionary in the payments space. This gave us the drive to keep pushing even through moments of uncertainty.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Probably the biggest mistake I made was choosing to listen to self-professed “experts” over my own

experience. It’s funny to think about now, but it definitely wasn’t at the time!

I was desperate for a solution for chargebacks, so I went with conventional wisdom, which said it was better not to react. Even though I knew most of the disputes filed against me were invalid, I was

advised not to fight back, and so I didn’t. Months went by, and I was losing more and more money with each one. Finally, I said “enough is enough.” I decided to handle things my own way, which proved to be the right decision.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are the first company to really specialize in chargeback management, and because of that we have the benefit of first-mover advantage. We are also the first company to identify the need for chargeback management for financial institutions, which led us to launch our new brand, called Fi911, which is focused solely on financial institution pain points.

We were also the first company to recognize that chargeback reason codes were not a reliable indicator of chargeback sources. In response, we developed leading edge Intelligent Source Detection technology, which uses a combination of machine learning and human forensics to drill down and identify chargebacks by their source. This gives us the power to deliver a better ROI for our merchants.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think the topic of work-life balance has weighed heavily on all of us this past year as we’ve navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are working from home and it’s easy for the days to run together and for the lines between work and home to blur.

My advice is to learn how to unplug. It can be hard sometimes; after all, you’re putting everything into this company, and you want to see it succeed. That said, you’ll be much better positioned in the long run if you prioritize mental health and take time to step away from work to recharge. I do this by getting outside, staying active, and spending time with my family.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My first boss, Blair Rigby, was instrumental in teaching me how to lead. If there’s one thing I learned from him, is that it’s okay to make mistakes. I can’t tell you the number of mistakes I made while working for him. However, he had a way of turning those missteps into learning experiences, and he didn’t mind providing space for that, because he knew it would make for a stronger team in the long run.

Blair always challenged me to be better, to think more deeply, and to try new ideas. I try to carry that same approach in my own business.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

I would define a “good” company as one that is successful but hasn’t totally found their stride yet. Good companies haven’t reached their full potential and there’s not much that sets them apart.

A “great” company, on the other hand, is one that has gone the extra step. They are leaders in their industry and are well-respected because they’re innovators. Great companies are never content to remain static; they’re always looking for new ways to change the game, provide better value to customers, and move the industry forward.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

People matter — At the end of the day, the people are the most important part and ought to be treated with respect.

Lead with integrity — Remember that your brand will reflect who you are as a person.

You get what you put in — You have to be committed and ready to work the hardest in the room.

Innovation is key — There will always be another company that figures out how to do what you’re doing. You have to constantly look for new ways to challenge the status quo.

Don’t be afraid of failure — Fear will hold you back more than you realize. You have to be ready to take the plunge.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

I sincerely believe that all businesses should be judged on how they improve the world and use their platform for good. When there is a greater purpose beyond the day-to-day work, I think that employees are more likely to be motivated and invested.

For example, we have our own “Charity Challenge,” through which we make weekly donations to different charities in the area. They are nominated by employees, so it’s an exciting and rewarding experience to invest in organizations that are meaningful to us and are doing fantastic work for our communities. We also run an organization called Paid for Grades, which offers prizes to local students for their academic performance.

This greater purpose also impacts customers because they recognize that you truly care and are committed to making a difference.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

My advice would be to revisit your company’s core values and chief mission. Sometimes, we can lose sight of what we first set out to do, and by reflecting on where you came from it might give you a clearer perspective on where you want to end up.

Running a business isn’t something you can do without passion and purpose. You have to be able to fully invest yourself in the organization, and losing sight of that purpose is the main reason business leaders lose focus.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Like I touched on earlier, innovation remains our key focus and our best asset to remain strong. You have to keep your ear to the ground and identify new needs and opportunities to solve problems, then provide a solution. You can roll out new products, while constantly refining and improving on your offerings, to make yourself indispensable.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

I think it always comes back to the people. The bigger a company gets, the more manpower is needed, and that small, intimate startup feeling isn’t easily replicated. More people means more moving parts. As our company has expanded and grown, we really make it a point to create meaningful connections and cultivate that team mentality.

Whether you’re running a business of ten employees or a hundred, you need to find ways to nurture relationships and build trust with everyone you work with.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

You need to strike a balance between what I call “negative” and “positive” friction. The former are just unnecessary roadblocks that slow the process and divert customers away from converting. The latter have little-to-no impact on the customer experience, but fulfill an important role, like security or preventing buyers’ remorse.

For an eCommerce retailer, for instance, clunky and slow sites, poorly-designed product pages, and confusing checkout processes are all examples of negative friction. You want to eliminate these wherever possible. In contrast, an example of positive friction could be velocity checks, which prevent the same customer from completing numerous purchases in a quick burst, which can prevent fraud.

While I used eCommerce retail as an example, that friction dichotomy exists for just about every business.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

The most obvious strategy would be to provide responsive and adaptable customer support. I always encourage businesses to provide round-the-clock live service wherever possible. This should be across multiple channels of response including phone, email, and social media.

You can also build your brand by giving back to the communities that support you. I mentioned earlier that we at Chargebacks911 are driven by our philanthropic efforts. This will have the added bonus of building a positive impression of your brand over time.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

You have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to provide customers with the best experience possible. While it’s important to have solid and comprehensive policies and procedures, you need to be flexible in how you exercise these policies.

If you need to bend the rules a little to provide a customer with an excellent experience, it could be worthwhile to do so. This way, you build a positive brand impression and secure that customer’s loyalty. They will also share their positive experience with others, thereby building your reputation over time.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

I’m not overly-concerned with our reputation in regards to social media, personally. We’re a B2B company, and mostly take an “engaging and helpful, yet professional” approach to our social media. However, this can — and should — vary from one business to the next, so I can understand why it’s a pressing concern for a lot of businesses.

You have to walk a fine line when navigating social media. You want to leverage the zeitgeist, while avoiding anything that could result in a backlash.

You need to be wary about engaging on social media. Whoever manages your profiles should have a very adept understanding of the landscape, and also understand your social media strategy and the niche you fill in that landscape very intimately.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

I’ve seen many make the mistake of always trying to be the smartest in the room. This constant need to prove yourself can be exhausting, and can lead others to mistrust your leadership. Try to focus on the individual strengths of the team and acknowledge that everyone brings something different to the table. You can’t be the best at everything, and that’s okay; that’s why you build a team of trusted people around you.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am very passionate about speaking on the gender imbalance in STEM fields. One of the main problems is that, because of historical trends, not as many opportunities for self-promotion are available to women; they may not have as many opportunities for mentorship and advancement as their male counterparts.

I want to be able to open doors for the next generation of girls and young women. I believe that female leaders in STEM fields need to serve as role models toward students and young women. This will illustrate that these jobs are an option for them, and will hopefully inspire them to follow their dreams if they aspire to pursue a career in tech or science.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can follow me on Twitter (@Monica_Eaton), as well as on LinkedIn, and on my own personal blog:

http://monicaec.com/. I contribute regular guest content to a number of sites including Forbes,

PaymentsSource, and other outlets focused on payments, finance, and business leadership. Following me on social is a great way to keep tabs on everything I publish!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Thank you so much for having me!


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