In one of our previous blogs we discussed how dealing with return and refund management can be a time-consuming task. With at least 30% of all products being returned it has become an important part of the business. Yet returns should not be seen as a problem. Instead, they should be seen as a chance to improve retailing. We briefly touched upon customer satisfaction, yet the topic deserves more attention. No matter the size of your (online or omni-channel) store, there will always be people who are not satisfied with their product and want a return. This is where your return policies come in. How can return policies contribute to happy customers and, not unimportantly, happy retailers?
The following ten best practices will help to smoothen out your return processes.
1. Product Specific Time Limits
First of all, think about what time will you give customers to return their goods. Many merchandisers choose to have loose deadlines in order to keep customers satisfied. Some companies are known to even give their customers up to a year to return products! Yet this might mean that return rates will be higher and less predictable. Therefore it is wise not to have the same return time for all your products. Instead look at the products individually. Clothing for example, that might go out of season or out of style could have a shorter return time than expensive durable goods. Be generous to your customers, but do make sure that it does not become a disadvantage to your business.
2. Return Channels
How do customers want to make their returns? Can products that have been bought online be returned in-store? Do products have to be sent back, or should there be a pick-up service? In the omni-channel return process these questions are especially important. Did you know that 62% of shoppers are more likely to buy online if they can return items in store? People expect returning products is easy as it has become an industry standard. The best way is to offer your customers various options, so they can choose the best option for them.
3. Easy Returns
Try to make the return process as easy as possible. For example: set up a special return page on which people can see to which stores products can be returned. Or offer read-made printable labels which customers can stick to their packages. Provide the customer with comprehensive, yet easily understandable, guidelines for returns. Make returns easy and people will choose your store instead of the competition, increasing sales. Also, 92% of customers will buy again if returns were easy!
4. Don’t Hide your Policies
Before products are bought, customers often check the return policies. Therefore these should be very easy to find. Do not hide your policies on your website but make them very visible. Put them on a dedicated page, or show them on product pages. Having a clear view of the policies will make it easier for customers to decide to buy at your store. Fact: 67% check the return page before making a purchase.
5. Offer Free Shipping
Free shipping means spending extra money. Yet the costs of free returns need to be weighed against the extra conversions it will bring. Offering free (two-way) shipping will boost retention rates. Also, let customers know from the start that returning the item is free, as you would do with free delivery.
6. Keep Customers Informed
When a customer decides to return a product, make sure you keep them informed about the return process. Let them register the item, and give them clear instructions. Either point them towards the nearest store, or instruct them how to send the order back. When sent back, keep them informed about the progress. Let them know when the return is received, whether they will be refunded (or get a replacing product) and when they can expect their refund.
7. Refund Fast
Make returns and refunds a priority. Nothing is more annoying for customers than having to wait for their money to be refunded. Also, quick return and refund management mean that returned products can be up for sale again as soon as possible. Therefore it benefits your company in two ways, whilst also satisfying the customers.
8. Ask For Feedback
When items get returned, ask why. Items might no have the expected size, color or might, for example, be broken. You might have to change the description on the product page in order to lower the return rate. An ERP system can help to register return reasons and give quick insights about whether products get returned for the same reason too often.
9. Encourage New Sales
Using returns to encourage people to buy more? Yes! When a return is successfully refunded, send your customer an email and offer them a discount. They may have returned the product now, but as they have had a positive experience they might decide to buy with you again.
10. Do not Follow your Own Policies
Last, but not least, do not be too strict in following your own return policies. Remember that all you want to do is keep customers happy. Stick to the rule: treat customers the way that you would like to be treated!
So, what are you waiting for? Be ready to accept returns with a smile, and let your return policies turn shoppers into loyal customers!