Holiday Returns Can Equal Loyal Customers01.13.2016
We know that returns are less than ideal, especially after the holiday season when your sales were at their highest. No one likes to see the returns piling up at the customer service counter, or lines wrapping around the store. But, we would be naïve to think that all customers will keep every purchased item or gift. The reality is that customer returns will always happen throughout the year, the bulk of them following the holidays. That’s why we’re here; we want you to make the most out of this opportunity.
Yes, we did say opportunity. As much of a pain that returns can be for you, they are just as much of an inconvenience for customers. This is where your opportunity comes in – creating a hassle free return experience for your customers.
Customers will use every interaction they have with you to build their perception of your brand. A negative return experience can ruin the relationship you have been working so hard to build with your customer. On the other hand, an easy and pleasant return experience can enhance your brand reputation, improve customer loyalty, and ultimately protect your bottom line.
So how do you take advantage of this opportunity? There are some simple steps you should take to make your return policy as easy as possible. We will break this down in two categories: brick and mortar stores and online retailers:
Brick and Mortar Stores
Make your policy known
Your return policy needs to be readily available, easy to access, and generally promoted throughout your store. Consider printing your policy and posting it at each cash register so that customers can read it while checking out. You might even want to print a condensed version on your receipts. Train your store associates on your policy and have them ask customers during the check out if they are familiar with your policy. This helps ensure that there are no surprises when customers come back with a return.
Authorize all staff members
There is nothing more irritating to customers than being told by the sales associate behind the register that they cannot process the return, and will have to wait for a manager. Unless it is a special circumstance or the return seems highly suspicious, all employees should have authorization to process returns. Make sure your staff is trained on how to handle returns, ensuring your customers get in and out of the store in a timely manner.
We give this recommendation with caution, and suggest that you implement it just as carefully. Customers will not appreciate being grilled about why they are returning their purchase; however, returns can offer valuable insight into a product’s performance. Simply ask the customer “why” they are returning the purchase and allow them to offer as much information as they please. Some people will provide more detail than others, so make sure you have a system in place to record their feedback. This helps you identify patterns, and potentially enhance a product’s design or special features in the future.
Make your policy known
Just like brick and mortar stores, you will need to make your return policy known. Post your policy on your website and make sure it is easy to find and won’t be overlooked by shoppers. If a customer is able to return a product purchased online to a brick and mortar store, let them know. If you provide free return shipping, then by all means shout it from the rooftops! Customers will be more open to shopping with you online if they know how they can handle a return should they need to.
The simpler the better
Whether you choose to provide free return shipping, or include a return mailing label with their original purchase, the easier you make it for the customer, the more they will appreciate you. Many customers are leery of shopping online for the simple fact of not knowing how easy or difficult it will be to make a return. So make it easy for them!
It’s pretty standard for returns to be automatically refunded, but there are still some exceptions. Don’t be the exception. Again, this all comes down to making your customer’s life easier which only enhances their opinion of your brand. Customers shouldn’t have to worry about how their refund will be applied. If you don’t offer automatic refunds, then make that known in your return policy so customers know up front what to expect. Store credit is great for you, but is that what your customer really wants?
Returns don’t have to be negative. Use this opportunity to connect with your customers, learning what they liked or didn’t like about their purchase. Make their life easier by processing their return as simply as possible. If you think you have a solution for why they are returning their product, let them know! Use your judgement about how you can best serve your customers during this season of returns, and you will earn their loyalty for years to come.