Whether you’re an eCommerce or a brick-and-mortar business, you should recognize the importance of a good returns policy. Maybe you’re just starting out with your venture or are looking for ways to improve current strategies? One of the best places to begin is with a well-crafted policy designed to boost sales.
This may seem counterintuitive; don’t returns cost your business? Aren’t they an overall loss that will have you dipping into your reserves? You’re not alone in this thought – many business owners find returns a tricky process to navigate.
After all, you’re not exactly making money in the process. But it’s important to shift your mindset if you want to boost future sales.
Why are return policies important?
Creating a customer-centric returns policy is a fundamental cornerstone of your business. If you can’t provide customers with an easy and transparent option for returns, you’ll be stuck with a lot of unhappy buyers. Over-complicate things and you could see customer retention rates drop and your overall revenue decrease.
Providing customers with an accessible returns option shows them you value and care about their customer journey, not just their wallets. If you deal with an unhappy customer correctly and promptly, you’re more likely to retain them as future buyers. In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to see how big a role good returns policies play in business.
Online ordering has simplified and sped up the buying process, but it has also made more room for returns and miscommunication. This is why customer returns can be such a nightmare for some companies because a lack of transparent communication can lead to ridiculous requests for returns.
You might already have experienced the frustration of having returns sent to you that are out of date or damaged or used by the buyer. Some customers do like to test the limits, but more often than not, the confusion is created by a poor returns policy.
What’s important is creating a policy that clearly sets out your expectations and specifications to avoid mishaps like this in the future. You can be a little lenient – just make sure it’s relevant and has clear rules in place for specific products.
The customer experience is key to crafting a good returns policy that informs and provides customers with the information they need. Before you even begin putting your new and improved returns policy into action, however, you first have to figure out what kind of policy you’ll be developing.
Some important questions to consider include:
- What is the timeframe for returned goods (is there a 30/60/90-day window)?
- What counts as a damaged item that can no longer be returned?
- Will the customer have to pay for shipping or will the company cover those costs?
- Are labels needed and does the customer have to manually print them or can they be accessed online?
- What refund methods will you accept (store credit or payment directly into the customer’s bank account?)
- What are the regulations you have to adhere to according to national and local law?
- Is there a different returns process for items originally bought as gifts?
Once you’ve thought about these questions, you can set about crafting a returns policy that really speaks to your customers. Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing your buyer persona – this will ensure you create a policy that fits in with their specific needs and desires.
Perhaps some customers prefer making returns manually and others would rather use a self-service tool. Be sure to include multiple options to cater to all these desires.
To help, we’ve compiled a handy guide that details the four main steps to create a customer centricity returns policy that boosts sales.
Create a transparent returns policy that’s visible to all
The first step to creating a customer-centric returns policy is making it easily accessible. This means thinking about how you can voice your returns management across all your platforms and ways that you can easily guide users to your returns FAQ or form.
If you’re an eCommerce site or offer SaaS, then your efforts will solely be focused online. You want to make your ecommerce returns policy as visible as possible, so consider having it on display across the entire customer journey. From the moment a user starts browsing to their final purchase, have your policy clearly visible and outlined in full.
Include accessible links across all your social media to your returns policy so you don’t have to keep answering pointless questions. The same goes for any brick-and-mortar store – the only difference is that your returns policy will have to physically be on display. Consider having a leaflet stand that holds important FAQS, and put-up notices detailing how your policy works.
And never underestimate the power of simple speech. Encourage all employees to follow up a purchase with a quick debrief on the company’s returns policy so that customers are made aware of the procedure.
Train staff on your returns policy
If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, this step is especially important. It’s crucial you train staff on your returns policy and the procedures customers have to go through so that if any problems do arise, your staff can quickly address them.
Questions are bound to come up from time to time, so having a regular refresh on the policy will ensure staff can answer customer queries promptly and correctly, eliminating a constant back and forth.
Remember to stress the importance of a calm and welcoming demeanor in any conversation that staff have with customers, even in moments of frustration. Customer service complaints aren’t an easy part of the job to handle, but staff should be able to deal with these in a respectful and timely manner.
You may think you’re off the hook as an eCommerce or SaaS business, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Though you can use tech to leverage automation and make answering questions easier, you should still have a system in place that deals with customer queries manually.
Not all users will want to ‘talk’ to a chat-bot to resolve an issue, so it’s important to make sure a specific department is trained up in dealing with customer queries, with an especial focus on returns.
Though COVID has halted onsite training, you can still make the most of tech and train employees via video conferencing software, as well as using collaborative platforms to monitor their progress.
Good training on your returns policy will enable your staff to make the customer journey run more smoothly and helps contribute to overall workforce optimization.
If you’re just starting out you might be unfamiliar with the term. It’s a broad business strategy that focuses on bringing together four main components – customer satisfaction, workforce scheduling, operational costs, and service levels – to help a business get the most from its workforce.
Increasing your WFO is a gradual process, and as time goes on, you’ll notice there are even more things you can do to help streamline processes and maximize the work that employees put in.
This is especially relevant to creating a customer-centric returns policy since training staff on procedures will increase your WFO, limiting back-and-forth discussion between customer service and the user and streamlining the returns process in the case of a query.
Set clear expectations for returns and avoid flowery language
Within your returns policy, it’s key to remain consistent and understood throughout. An informative and well-crafted policy will limit the number of queries you get, so be sure to set clear expectations for customers that detail how long the return window is and the procedures they have to follow to ensure a return is done correctly.
These expectations should detail limitations and specifics for returns, as well as cater to the individual product or service that is being returned. The way you handle a returned bikini will be different from the way food is returned and both will have differing return windows, so specificity is key.
When crafting your policy, it’s important to avoid flowery language and stick with easy and simple wording that gets the message across clearly. Not all your customers will understand business jargon and some may not be fluent in English, so make it as simple as possible to avoid confusion.
Consider using italics to highlight important keywords so they stand out to users and adopt an informative but casual tone. You want to come across as professional but user-friendly and approachable, so stick to a tone that embraces both.
Choose a platform for processing returns that works for you
If you work in eCommerce, you might already have retail software with a built-in returns platform, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Most businesses will need to select a platform for returns that works for them, so a little bit of research and analysis is required.
Even if you already have a system in place, it could be useful to re-evaluate your options to make sure you have the best platform possible for functionality purposes. When doing your research, be sure to put your business needs at the forefront and consider:
- What platform would work best for your company?
- Do you have the capacity for the platform you’ve chosen?
- What kind of features do you want the platform to hold?
- Do you want a platform that focuses on manual returns or self-service functions, or do you want to offer both?
Once you’ve evaluated the kinds of functions you want your platform to possess, be sure to consider how it will process payments and the options available to you. Some might be able to offer a mixture of store credit and direct payment to the customer’s bank, while others may be more focused on one than the other. Evaluate all your options so you pick a platform that works for you.
Your returns policy is more than just a leaflet or form to fill in; it’s an entire process that needs careful consideration. You shouldn’t just rely on a single route to answer queries about it, such as cold calling – make use of your trained staff and FAQS too.
Creating a clear and comprehensive returns policy is not an overnight job. You have to utilize your team and encourage collaboration. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, this is a lot easier since you can round your team up physically and provide training onsite.
However, even if you only have an online presence, get everyone together to work on creating a customer-centric policy. Most of us are already accustomed to a remote work environment, so consider the platforms you have and whether you need to install any additional setups.
It could be useful to implement a VoIP within your business, for example, to help eliminate miscommunication between departments and streamline processes.
VoIP is perfect in a remote work setting because it can be used across devices regardless of the different internet connections at play. This makes having a non-fixed VoIP number an effective way of linking up a team without the need for a physical address.
But what is a non-fixed VoIP number? Defined as a phone number without a physical address, a non-fixed VoIP number is essentially a virtual number that can be used for both home and business purposes.
Before you consider installing it, don’t forget the importance of weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of VoIP home phone for your team. There are many other online tools that also encourage collaboration and streamline the process of remote work, and you may find VoIP isn’t the right one for you.
There’s an abundance of online collaboration platforms around, so don’t just stick to one if you find there are others that work better for you.
Overall, the key to creating a customer-centric returns policy hinges on three factors: transparency and visibility, staff training, and clear customer expectations. It’s not enough for a returns policy to be informative – it also has to be human and user-friendly.
This means combining automation and live customer service agents to create a policy that reflects your brand’s commitment to providing customer-centric service to consumers.
Elea Andrea Almazora– RingCentral US
Elea is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and collaboration solutions on the cloud. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.