September 16, 2009, 12:00 AM

How Urban Outfitters speeds through manual review of payment transactions

With a new fraud management system that looks at 13 times as many variables as before, the apparel retailer is getting more orders out the door on time while cutting customer service and shipping expenses, call center manager Bryan Whitney says.

With a new risk management system that looks at 13 times as many variables as before, apparel retailer Urban Outfitters Inc. has cut by more than 90% the number of customer orders it holds for manual review. That not only keeps customers happier, but it also cuts down on customer service and shipping expenses, Bryan Whitney, manager of the retailer’s call center, tells Internet Retailer.

“We’re getting orders to our warehouse faster, and enhancing customer service,” Whitney says.

He adds that, in the past, the retailer would have to absorb the cost of overnight shipping to customers whose orders were unnecessarily delayed for manual review. In addition, if the same customers had already paid for expedited shipping with their order, the retailer would have to refund those fees.

Urban Outfitters has deployed the Interceptas fraud management system from Accertify Inc. Because the system can instantly review 65 different combinations of variables to score the risk of online customer orders, up from only five in the retailer’s prior risk management system, it can more accurately determine as soon as orders come in whether they need to be caged for manual review.

The larger number of variables, or risk scoring rules, enables the retailer to instantly determine if an order is legitimate even if it shows some attributes that are considered risky, Whitney says. For example, in the old system, an order might be held for manual review if the customer’s billing address was different from the requested shipping address. That’s because criminals have been known to use the actual billing address associated with a stolen credit card, while requesting shipment to their address of choice.

But because the Interceptas system can also instantly review dozens of other variables that could indicate that the same order was actually legitimate, Urban Outfitters has been able to hold far few orders for manual review without increasing its exposure to fraud, Whitney says. Since deploying the Interceptas system earlier this year, the retailer has cut the number of orders caged for manual review from more than 30% to about 5%, a drop of more than 90%, he says.

In addition, the drop in manual reviews has coincided with a 61% decline in the number of calls customer service agents place to customers to verify information and a 77% drop in calls from customers inquiring about their orders.

Urban Outfitters, which uses the Interceptas system for all three of its brands-Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People-has also worked with Accertify to build lists of positive transaction data that identify non-risky customers. These lists help the Interceptas system quickly identify legitimate orders.

The reduction in manual reviews has enabled the retailer to reassign call center agents dedicated to manual reviews to other customer service tasks, Whitney says. This has helped Urban Outfitters to meet its goal of answering every incoming customer call within 10 seconds-a level of performance it hits 98.3% of the time, he adds.

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