While most merchants would prefer to not think about their returns policy, it’s imperative for every ecommerce company to have one. Not only is it good business, but it will also help customers trust your brand and the products that you sell.
In fact, “A comprehensive ecommerce return policy will reduce the time and money you spend on returns, minimize the number of returns, and keep your customers coming back.”
Here are some tips for building a quality ecommerce returns policy:
Returns are Preventable
Online merchants can prevent most returns by offering accurate product descriptions, photos and videos in an attempt to give the customer a 360-degree view of the items you sell. If the products you’re selling have informative descriptions and proper pictures (or even product videos), you’ll greatly reduce the number of returns. Look at how other sites selling similar products are listing them. You can’t just have a one line description if your competition has a whole page of info as well as photos from all sides of the product. Think of what you would want if you were looking to buy the product yourself.
Leave the Legal Jargon Behind
One of the best customer service moves you can make is to keep your returns policies simple and easy to understand by leaving the legal jargon behind and spelling out exactly what your policy is. This should not only decrease customer questions, but it might result in less refunds taking place in-store or online. Look at how many of the large ecommerce stores have set up their language. Places like Zappos.com have simple easy to understand language and is easy to find.
Keep the Returns Policy Front and Center
You never want to hide your returns policy on your website. The returns policy should be posted on everything from your website, to your receipts, to emails, and even on packaging. This way the customer can always view your policy and avoid getting hit by hidden costs. Don’t hide anything. If it’s up to the customer to pay for return shipping – make that very clear.
There is No Such Thing as a Final Sale
The most successful traditional brick-and-mortar stores accept returns, so why should online merchants be any different? You should always stand behind your product, but if a customer is not happy and wants to make a return – let them. You want to keep your customers happy so they will keep coming back as well as tell others about how good your service is, not how bad it was.
The ability to return an item should not be indefinite. Merchants must have a specific time frame for accepting returns. The best practice for returns should be anywhere between 30, 60, or 90 days from purchase. There might be a shorter window for damaged or malfunctioning products, but you need to keep it simple.
Offer Exchange Options
When a customer wants to return an item, give them options such as an exchange, store credit, or a cash return. Merchants should make up their own policy and not feel pressure to offer full refunds. However, in the event of a malfunctioning or damaged item, it shouldn’t be the customer’s responsibility to pay extra for anything. Make every effort to replace the item, or give a full refund without incurring any costs to the customer. It is often a good idea to offer free shipping for the return of malfunctioning or damaged items.
For merchants with a brick-and-mortar store or contact center, the best customer service you can have is a smart, educated staff that is not only friendly but up-to-date on all policies including refunds. You need to be available to help answer questions and if a message or email is left, you need to respond to this in a timely manner. If you look at sites such as e-bay and Amazon, they have policies regarding how quickly you need to get back to the customers and if you miss this, you may be banned from selling on their sites.
Inspect the Product
Anytime a customer has an issue with a recent purchase, such as a broken or defective product, make sure you inspect every return to make sure it has been assembled correctly. Make sure that the product is correctly installed and turned on before deeming it damaged. Sometimes a return is due to customer confusion regarding how the product works. Taking this extra step can save money in your inventories well as informing a list of common customer problems so you can better help the next one.