For the longest time, refunds have been an issue because they reduce income, they can be a hassle to process, and the products are sometimes unsellable for a second time. When it comes to the after-Christmas period, most businesses will know this is the most popular time of year for returns and refunds after unwanted or incorrectly-bought gifts. However, this doesn’t have to be a negative for your business and we’re going to discuss what you can do to prevent January returns from eating into your profits!
Understanding the Customer - Before we move onto solutions, we have to understand that customers dislike returning products (just as much as ourselves!). Not only is it a hassle, it means they have to take time from their day and they have to spend money on gas, parking, packaging, and more. With online returns, even these present problems and a trip to the post office.
Therefore, we believe the first step to be understanding why the customer is returning the product. Is it faulty? Did it not meet their expectations? Was it incorrect for their needs? In some cases, the customer already has something similar and so they’re returning the gift. In others, the customer may not fully understand how the product works and this is where your sales team comes in. As long as you listen to the customers and be empathetic, you may be able to build a successful relationship with the buyer where they keep the product or buy a replacement (or something else entirely).
Converting to Exchanges - If you don’t want to lose revenue due to a return, the best way to do this is to convince them to exchange. For example, clothes can be easy because you can convince them to try on a different size or perhaps a different design. For a certain percentage, they won’t be aware of the exchange possibilities so it’s your job to inform them. As long as you’re friendly and encourage them to shop before heading to the customer service desk (you could also point out the January sales), the exchange will be likely and you don’t need to lose out.
Converting to Customer Service Opportunities - Did you know that four out of five people WILL NOT purchase from your store if the returns process is a hassle? Rather than stressing about a potential hit to your profits, use the opportunity to shine with your customer service. If you offer a pleasant returns service, don’t blame them, be helpful at all stages, and be empathetic towards their needs, customers will leave happy and return in the future; if they’re happy enough, they might even stay and purchase something on the same day.
Focus on the Customer - According to a recent poll, a whopping 63% of consumers check the returns policy before going ahead with a purchase. What’s more, 92% of US consumers in the poll stated their intention to become a customer of a store if the returns policy allowed for a hassle-free return. Despite the strict stance e-commerce takes with refunds, the majority of returns are actually a result of the wrong item being shipped, damaged items, and the difference between a product’s online appearance and real-life appearance.
Within your returns policy, be sure to create it yourself as opposed to copying it from elsewhere. Furthermore, don’t fill it with negative language such as ‘we refuse’ and have a consistent training process in place for all staff members. Finally, don’t use technical/confusing jargon and be willing to take the hit for your own mistakes whether it’s the wrong items or damaged goods arriving at your customer’s door.
Summary - As long as you have a reasonable window for returns, 30 days is ideal, and you remain positive about the process, January returns don’t have to eat into your profits. Instead, they can be positive experiences that allow you to create a long-term relationship. Once customers tell all their friends about their great experience, word-of-mouth will be your friend and a return can actually transform into profit!