How to Handle Your Customer Returns

For ecommerce businesses the main goal is always to get your visitors to the checkout, and the best customer service should be available to help drive your customers towards a sale. But what happens after the sale has taken place? And what about delivering the best customer service for your returns and refunds too?

There will always be a high volume of returns in ecommerce. Even with the best product photography and descriptions, your customers are effectively ‘buying blind’ (unless they’ve viewed the item in-store and then purchased online) so there are bound to be occasions when items aren’t quite suitable, and expectations aren’t met. But you can adjust the way you choose to handle your website returns. Every customer who makes a return should still leave with a positive impression of your brand and, most importantly, feel encouraged to purchase from you again in the future.

If you haven’t given much thought to your returns procedure, now is the time - especially with Christmas just around the corner! So what can you improve on?

Provide An Online Returns Process

Including an online returns process allows a customer to request a return from their online account prior to posting, and it can also save a lot of time for retailers. Not only does it inform the retailer about the specific items they can expect, but it shows the exact reason for the return and means you can pre-plan how to handle the return process. For example, if a customer logs a return as ‘re-sellable – wrong size’ you know this item can be sold on. You could then automate the refund to process on the customer’s account upon arrival and once the condition has been confirmed. An online refund process would also cut out the data-entry necessary for postal-only refunds as you would only need to check the reasons are correct, rather than input the information again.

Return reasons can offer valuable insight into your business so it’s best to provide a good range of options to cover most eventualities. UK clothing brand Topshop do a great job with their online return options, allowing customers to buy multiple sizes and providing a return reason to account for this.

Display a clear refund policy

Your refund policy should always be easy for a customer to find, and needs to clearly explain all aspects of the process. Most refunds will be genuine so ensure that your current policy doesn’t give a negative impression of your brand by banning refunds – this does happen! Once you’ve created a fair procedure, try to display this on product pages as well as on a separate ‘Returns’ section.

Along with timescales, postal address, customer service details and refund conditions, it is also worth considering any additional concerns your customer may have depending on what products you sell. For example, online beauty retailer Feelunique provides a section on returns for products that may cause an allergic reaction. This addresses an additional factor that might make a customer reluctant to purchase.

Offer free shipping on returns

A 2012 survey by LivePerson reported that 60% of UK consumers won’t even consider buying online unless returns are free, so it can be a huge sales block to potential customers!

Often shoppers who process regular refunds can actually be your best customers and the ones that spend the most money. US clothing retailer Zappos found that customers buying the most expensive items actually had a 50% return rate. And it makes sense that if a customer has confidence in your returns policy they would be inclined to shop more frequently and spend more money, all safe in the knowledge that they can easily get their money back should they need to.

If you are already offering free returns then don’t forget to shout about it! Even if you don’t usually provide free returns it can be a really big incentive to customers at Christmas, especially if paired with an extended returns period to cover unwanted presents until the end of January.

You might think your ecommerce customer service is second to none, but it’s surprising how many retailers don’t take into account the experience they provide during the refund process. If you want to strengthen your brand reputation and really encourage repeat-custom then it’s an aspect of your online business that should not be overlooked.

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