The way you handle your returns says a lot about who you are as a business. If your current policy needs some work, it’s time to set your plan in motion.
Automate the process
Many people shop online for the sake of convenience. People lead busy lives, and they don’t always have the time to visit a store during its hours of operation. If they purchased something from you online, don’t make them drive all the way out to return it. Offer printable return labels on your website. They can then repackage the item and leave it in their mailbox. You’ve shown them that you understand how much their time means to them, and they’ll remember that next time they shop.
This is also an excellent way to drum up more eCommerce business. Some people are afraid to shop online because they don’t know how they’ll feel about something by the time it arrives at their doorstep. Offering easy online returns will make them less hesitant to take a chance.
Get rid of prohibitive policies
It’s normal to be concerned about your finances when people make returns. Time and money that went into fulfilling or completing a sale can never be redeemed, and that’s why so many retail businesses charge restocking fees for returns. Nix that policy – keeping it on the books runs the risk of alienating people who may have been willing to give you a second chance.
Plan for an influx of holiday returns
January is the most popular month for returns, since the end of December is full of gift exchanging holidays and celebratory events. People are too busy to make prompt returns, so they put them off until the beginning of the year.
If your customers have to wait a long time just to handle a return, they’re not going to be too thrilled to accept store credit. Be ready to handle refunds throughout all of January and extend your return policy if needed. Your queues are likely to be far longer than they normally are, so you’ll also need to be sure that you’re adequately staffed.
Help them find something better
A return is the best opportunity for an upsell. If something didn’t work for a customer, ask them why. Instead of trying to convince them to change their mind, explain to them that you have something that will work out much better for them. For example, shoes returned for their uncomfortable narrow width present a perfect opportunity to show a customer wider shoes. You’re solving multiple needs simultaneously and showing that you care about your customers. They’ll also be less likely to seek a an alternative from a competitor if they’re aware you have what they need.
Give people enough time
Some companies skirt people’s expectations by offering a great return policy, but within an extremely limited window. If you only accept no questions asked, full refund returns within 7 days of purchase, people might not have had a chance to use what they purchased. Retail leaders offer at least 28 days for their returns, and this timeframe is very reasonable. If something breaks or a defect is discovered the second or third time they use something, they won’t feel stuck with it. They can safely exchange what they’ve purchased or use their refund to buy something else.
No matter how you handle returns, it’s important to remember that adopting a defensive attitude or arguing with the customer is never going to reflect well on your customer service. Approach returns with grace and ease, and so will your customers.
Alana Downer is a business, customer service, and financial blogger, currently supporting Learn to Trade – expert educators in the finance field.