Managing Returns

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. However, that doesn’t mean you are home free – far from it, actually. The holiday rush is over, yes, but now you have to deal with returns – and probably, lots of them.

First off, it is necessary to make this clear: A vast majority of your customers don’t wake up wanting to rip your company off. Stores seem to think this and I don’t believe in treating your customers like criminals when only a very small percentage will actually try to rip you off.

Yes, some people may take advantage of your policies, but it happens. A lot of customers will appreciate the policies and tell their friends and family. You’ll build customer loyalty and create word of mouth marketing. In the end, it’s probably well worth it. Think about long term success through successful customer relationships as opposed to short term gain.

I have no idea what percentage of people return X percentage of gifts they receive, but I imagine the numbers are fairly high. Based on what I got, I would guess somewhere around 80% return 10% or so of their gifts, at least. That number is completely unscientific – simply based on what I think is the case.

The point, though, is that you will probably be getting a lot of returned products. Here are some tips:

  • On your web site’s home page, put a “Returns are easy” button in a prominent location that links to a page that explains the return process and what’s involved.
  • If you have a physical store, consider putting a sign near the entrance with a few sentences about what to do when returning a product. For example: “Welcome to Store! / Have a product to return or exchange? / No problem. / Visit the customer service counter on the second floor in the back. / If possible, please bring your gift receipt.”
  • Use bullet points, tables, lists, etc. to make information easier to read. Check out a blog like Copyblogger for information on how to write copy that is easy to understand.
  • Depending on the size of your company and your historical return rates, it may be a good idea to setup a group that is dedicated to handling returns.
  • Ensure that all related employees can use the return systems, understand the policies, know the procedures, etc.
  • Staff accordingly – you may need some extra employees to help deal with a large amount of returns.
  • Do not treat your customers like criminals.
  • Don’t interrogate your customers about why they are returning the product. Many don’t want to say they don’t like what their grandmother sent them for Christmas. Assume that if it is fairly close to the holidays, they didn’t like the gift and want to return it.
  • Don’t require a ton of paperwork to return it. A gift receipt should be enough. If they don’t have it and you stock that product, assume they are telling the truth and take it. Issue a store credit.
  • Bonus points: Follow up with the customer after they return/exchange the product (about two weeks after) to ensure that everyting is okay.
  • As always, use common sense.

For some more posts about returns on Service Untitled, check out this one, this one, this one, this one, and last, but not least, this one. They are examples of what approaches different companies take when it comes to returns.