Well, not always. If it’s a defective toy or a duplicate gift or too difficult to use, the retailer is likely to see the customer requesting an item return—choosing to send the toy back to the retailer’s shelves or the supplier’s rework inventory.
And in how the item return is handled, the retailer has an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the competition. Consumer behavior research finds that unpleasant item returns turn away repeat business. Formal research findings aside, smart retailers—both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar—recognize the profitability which comes from making product returns pleasant. Customers become more willing to buy when they know they can receive a refund or exchange if things don’t work out.
- Yes, you’ve set a return policy. But is the policy clear and announced clearly? At the store, when customers are waiting in line at a returns desk, can they easily see the policy? On your website, is the policy easy to access? In one survey of 2,000 ecommerce shoppers, about 50% of respondents said they always check the return policy before making an online purchase.
- Yes, you’ve trained staff on all the terms of the return policy. But can staff members keep their explanations to angry customers brief? Staff members who are flustered too often resort to reciting too much of the policy instead of explaining in plain language only the specific part of the policy that applies.
- Yes, you know that asking each customer the reason for the return is a good way both to improve merchandising and to curb fraud. But are you training and coaching your staff to make this a service-oriented inquiry? Keep questions brief. When someone comes to the returns counter in-store or is completing the form for a return to be shipped, ask them to tell you the reasons for the return, and then record those reasons along with the person’s identification information. Never make this procedure a prolonged inquisition, and always have in mind that it is more important to keep a customer than to keep to a policy. And tell your customers the advantages to them of sharing those reasons. Your staff and the screen message might say something like, “I know it’s a bother to you to have to return merchandise you’ve bought from us. I want to be sure we deal with suppliers who will provide you, your family, and your friends with the right products the first time, every time.”
- Yes, you’re wise enough to allow ecommerce customers to make returns without needing to go to a brick-and-mortar store. But do you also encourage ecommerce customers to make returns at your store? Then once the consumer is in the store, how well do you transform them into a curious shopper? This is especially useful when the person making the return received the item as a gift. People returning a gift may not know your store. Here’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce to them all the products and services you offer.
- Yes, you’ve empowered your staff to interpret policies flexibly. But is a manager readily available for when questions about returns arise?