Let's face it, if you sell something online, you are likely to run into scenarios where people want to return the product for a refund. The product may be perfectly fine, it is just a fact of retail that people will return things. If you want to make the return process run just as smoothly as the selling process, you need to effectively plan for customer returns. Hopefully you will not need to handle many returns of your product (or the product that you sell), but by planning for returns ahead of time, the process of handling the returns when they happen will be much easier to deal with.
Start By Planning Your Returns Process
The biggest thing to worry about when planning for returns is to assume the customer is going to make a return. Until that return window has passed, the customer may very well decide they do not want the product and initiate the return process. If you assume they will make the return, you will be better prepared for the possibility that they do want to make a return. Now, you may be thinking that this frame of mind is rather pessimistic, and maybe it is. But isn't it better to be prepared for a return and not have to worry about it, than to not be prepared and scramble when the call comes in? Being ready for a return does not mean not cashing the check, but it does mean taking the necessary steps to ensure that should a customer want to make a return, the process is hassle-free on both ends.
Add a Clear Return Policy on Your Website
By clearly spelling out your returns policy on your website with relevant links on your shopping pages, you'll not only provide users with the information they need to understand your policy, but you'll also build credibility. Providing a point of contact for questions about returns, whether an email address, an instant chat, or a phone number will give them easy access when they do need to reach out to you. Some of the things that you'll have to consider about your policy is whether or not a customer can return a product without a returns authorization by a company representative or if they need to get approval for a return, as well as how the customer will initiate the return, who will pay for the shipping related to the return, and how the customer's account will be credited.
Make Your Returns Process Easy
If you want to step things up, prepare for the return by issuing a return label. This is becoming more common among online retailers. By shipping the product with everything the customer needs to ship it back, you are welcoming them to return it if they are not 100% satisfied. This is the kind of customer service you want to provide, the kind that thinks in advance about the customers and what they may want. Hopefully very few of your customers will take advantage of prepaid mailing labels and return forms, but those that do want to return something are likely to buy again from your company thanks to the hassle-free return process.
If you do not want to pre-issue return slips and mailing labels, you need to make sure that it is easy for customers to obtain these forms - and where they need to go to obtain the forms online. Even if you are not going to pay for return shipping (make sure the customer knows this upfront), you still should make it easy for customers to print out the necessary forms for you to handle the return. Oftentimes, companies that don't include a return slip and shipping label in the package will at least include an insert that provides a website address where returns information can be accessed.
The easier it is for customers to get what they need to make returns simple, the more likely they are to continue using your business. But seriously consider paying for return shipping as a courtesy for them not liking the product, especially if you have free shipping to the customer from your warehouse.
Receiving and Inspecting the Return
Now, once you have the item back in your warehouse, what do you do? Hopefully you already have a process for processing returns, either automatically or manually, and then routing them based on whether they can be sold again. If the item is still "new" then put it back on the shelf and sell it again. If it is damaged in any way, then return it to the manufacturer, or write it off if you are the manufacturer.
Returns can be fickle. People like to have the option to return something, even if they do not use the option. Therefore, making it as easy as possible for customers to return something is likely to result in them staying a loyal customer. By planning ahead for the return of everything your business sells, you will be prepared for those returns that do come through.
insightQuote wants to help your business succeed in all areas. We feel that returns are an integral part of your online retail business, and we would like the opportunity to work with you to ensure the process is as smooth as it can be. If you would like to work with us, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss how we can help make your returns process as easy as it can be, and help grow your business at the same time.
Unreturned Items and the Impact it Could Have On Your Business
Returns are inevitable from consumers in a time when customers want specific items to help them solve problems. Not all products you sell are going to please everyone, though how easy do you make it for returns?
You may not know that over a fifth of all consumers surveyed said they were too busy to return an unwanted item to an online store. In many cases, they didn't bother to return it because they thought the returns process was too complex and time-consuming.
When this happens, it's usually due to realizing your returns process is too protracted. This only leads to customers thinking you make all returns too complicated to bother. Unfortunately, this usually results in the customer not shopping with your online store again.
You might experience other negative things until you streamline how you do returns. Here's more on unreturned items and the impact it could have on your business.
Avoid Bad Feedback From Customers
Because online reviews are so common over the last few years, you can't afford to ignore what people say about you. Having an inconvenient return policy could backfire and end up being mentioned in online feedback.
When you start getting numerous comments like this, it's impossible to stop them. With excessive complaints about your returns process, it could lead to new prospects moving on to your competitors where returns are easier.
Places like Yelp make negative comments widely seen, so the impact can become far-reaching into the future. However, you can respond to them and indicate you're changing things.
Word Spreading About Faulty Products
If you make returns too complex, it's more apt to spread other negative word about your business. Namely, it could lead to customers being more open about how bad the product was. Perhaps the biggest problem is you're selling faulty products, something you'll keep repeating if not amending returns and internal quality inspections.
When a customer can simply return the item and receive a good product, they maybe won't mention the faultiness. They'll figure it's an anomaly, especially when you can make the "return and replace" process fast.
Losing Communication With Loyal Customers
Another bad scenario is if many of your loyal customers start complaining about your products because they aren't getting what they really want. During these moments, you should realize you're losing regular communication with those most loyal to you.
Communicating regularly with your most loyal customers can help you find out what they really want so you don't have to deal with so many returns. However, making returns easy for them is essential since it's basically another form of communication.
An efficient returns system usually collects information about what the problem was with the product, why the customer returned it, and how many returns you're receiving. These metrics help give you information you need to improve your products, provide what customers want, and continually streamlines how you process returns.
Placing Your Fulfillment Center in Jeopardy
Since the fulfillment center is where returns take place, not properly processing returns there could lead to the warehouse losing their credibility in the marketplace. All of this may snowball and become a problem for them and you if you don't change things as soon as possible.
What's important is to stay communicated with your fulfillment center to work out an excellent returns policy. It's time to make this work as quickly as possible on a level you see in major corporate stores. Mimic their simple returns packaging, as well as easier return forms.
Contact us at insightQuote so we can help you find a quality fulfillment center with pain-free return processes.
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