Three ways to improve returns in 2015

Order Management

While many retailers would like to just assume that once a product has been sold to the customer the buying experience has ended, returns and exchanges do happen. Perhaps the buyer made a mistake or maybe the item arrived broken. Whatever the reason, people sometimes want to return or exchange products. In fact, returns and exchanges may even be increasing with more people shopping online – people cannot fully evaluate items they purchase at online stores until they arrive, so that may lead to more people who are not happy with their purchases.

Other retailers purposefully make their return policies unclear to dissuade individuals from bringing back goods.

But handling returns is no easy task. Some retailers struggle getting products back in circulation quickly, particularly when items are returned through a different channel from where they were purchased (an online customer returning goods to a physical store, for example). Other retailers purposefully make their return policies unclear to dissuade individuals from bringing back goods, according to the Consumerist. But at the end of the day, returns and exchanges are simply a part of the purchase cycle, and retailers must be prepared to handle them.

Fortunately, 2015 is a new year and the perfect time for merchants to rethink how they handle and execute return policies. Here are a few steps sellers can take to improve this process:

1. Make customer-focused policies

Retailers have increasingly been making their return policies pro-customer. As Multichannel Merchant noted, years ago, it would have been inconceivable for sellers to take back damaged products or offer long return periods. However, the level of competition in the retail space has gone up considerably and customers’ expectations have been growing as well.

“Years ago, it would have been inconceivable for sellers to take back damaged products or offer long return periods.”

When all is said and done, it is better business practice to be pro-consumer. Loyal customers are going to spend more in the long haul, so establishing policies that foster loyalty and improve satisfaction will pay off. Merchants might take a loss on one sale, but in the process, set themselves up to make many more in the future. An inflexible, strict policy, on the other hand, guarantees one sale but may anger customers and force them into the arms of competitors.

What you see is what you get – this should be the motto of any merchant as they design their return policies. Requiring receipts, limiting the number of returns each buyer can make and setting limited return periods are all tactics that are anti-consumer.

2. Make returns faster

In-store returns have generally been straightforward, and, for the most part, can be taken care of in a single trip. However, more people in the United States are shopping online, so they also expect to be able to return items purchased through the mail just as they received them.

Multichannel Merchant suggests that retailer credit the return to their customers’ accounts within one week of the request being made.”

Processing returns has never been an easy prospect, but when dealing with incoming packages, it is even more complex. Multichannel Merchant suggests that retailers aim for a seven-day standard when accepting returns from online shoppers, meaning sellers credit the return to their customers’ accounts within one week of the request being made.

To that end, merchants also need to make sure the customer stays in the loop throughout the exchange process. Let them know when their accounts are credited, when the item is received and when a replacement has been sent out to them (if they are exchanging goods).

3. Make returns a standard affair

At most brick-and-mortar stores, returns are handled by customer service representatives. However, customer service is often one of the least staffed departments – there are generally more cashiers and sales associates. This can create some major frustrations, particularly in the aftermath of major peak periods, where a lot of people are returning and exchanging goods.

By making returns something any employee can handle, Nordstrom makes a potentially bothersome process into a painless one.

Money Talks News noted Nordstrom’s approach to returns as being exemplary. At Nordstrom, any sales associate can process a return. Even if the item must be returned by mail, the retailer will give customers postage-paid labels to help ease any burden. This ensures there are no long lines at service booths and ensures people are served quickly and effectively. Long lines are never good for any merchant, particularly when they are long lines of annoyed customers looking to return goods. By making returns something any employee can handle, Nordstrom makes a potentially bothersome process into a painless one.

Returns and exchanges have the potential to be disastrous. This is why retailers need to focus on doing it right in the new year. By making customer-friendly policies, expediting the process and making sure anyone can do this task, merchants can set themselves up for success in this area.

Related Article

Holiday return fraud may put a dent in earnings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *