5 steps to easy customer returns for you and your customers

Customer returns can be at major headache for retailers.

However done right, it can be become your business’ competitive advantage, as customers prefer to purchase from online stores that make it easy for them to return a product, if there is a problem with it or they simply change their mind.

Here are 5 steps that you can take to make receiving and processing returns customer product returns easier for your business:

1.      Simplify the customer returns process and make it clear to the customer

  • With each order, send a return delivery label and returns documentation with and clear instructions on what is require do perform a return.
  • Make sure that the returns document contains a cross reference back to the original sales order.

2.      Capture data from the customer as to why they have returned the item.

The reasons why your customer has returned the product is key to identify what improvements are required to your website or business , and will reduce returns (and therefore lost sales) in the future.

  • Faulty products: is the product simply not good enough? A question for your Buyers.
  • Damaged products: product may be insufficiently packaged to withstand the rigours of delivery – or may be inappropriate to go via that route.
  • Product not as expected: Misleading product information may cause the customer to order a product that they didn’t expect from the information on the website. This could be down to the technical specification, the description of colours or materials, or just a description that sounds like the product will change your life!
  • Product was delivered late: Customer may require the product for a certain event. If issues at the warehouse or with the carrier cause a delay then a change in process is required or change in delivery promise.
  • Change of mind: customers do change their mind on a product. Make it easy for them to do so.

With the exception of ‘change of mind’, all of these factors are within your business’ control. Use the data about product returns to improve your business processes.

3.      Offer return routes that are easy for the customer to use.

  • Provide convenient collection or return options to the customer: offer freepost,  timed collection options or alternative drop-off points (for example, Collect+  and ByBox ) to help your customer.
  • If you have a store network, then offer your stores as place to receive returns from customers. This will not only increase footfall but provide opportunity to recover the sale at the store.
  • Enable a returns shipping label and documentation to be re-printed when the customer needs it: Customers may misplace or dispose of the returns documentation that was originally sent to them.

4.      Make sure that you have a method of recording the returned products condition  on its arrival at returns centre or returns desk.

For example, has the  product been returned “as new”, ‘damaged’, or ‘customer used’. This data will assist with ascertaining what the return action to the customer should be (e.g. full refund or replacement)  and also to determine the ultimate return disposition route for the product – whether it is back to the shelf, return to supplier, return for repair or dispose.

 5.      Initiate the refund or replacement ASAP.

For the most part, customer returns are for genuine reasons. A speedy resolution to a return – whether refund or replacement – will ensure that your customer does not worry unduly and increase the likelihood of them ordering from you in the future.

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Hi, I am the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of eCommPoint.com.
I launched eCommPoint.com to share the fruits of my experience designing order management, fulfilment, home delivery and customer service systems and processes for ecommerce retailers.

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