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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Easy Return Policy Means Return Customers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were a big hit this year. As usual, sales were up, despite the fact that many businesses feared that higher gas prices and the like would keep shoppers from spending as much money this year.

The unfortunate aspect of the Christmas season, for retailers anyway, are the returns. And returns are inevitable. You can’t please everyone, and gift giving is no exception. But, as an online retailer, if you want customers to keep coming back to you, then you need to provide an easy and clear-cut return policy.

According to a survey conducted by return processor Newgistics, Inc., at least nine out of 10 consumers cited a convenient return policy as important when shopping with a new or unknown online retailer. And 69% of those surveyed said that they wouldn’t use that online retailer again if the return policy is a pain or unclear.

So, what can you do to provide your customers with an hassle-free return process? Here are some tips to get you started:

Easy to Find
I can’t tell you how many times I have had to search and search and search an online retailer’s website to locate their return policy, only to finally find it in a completely hidden location. This tells me that particular retailer doesn’t want me to find its return policy because it doesn’t want me to return anything. So I move on to someone else.

The best thing to do is to provide a link directly to your return/exchange policy on your navigation bar, as well as that little lists of links at the bottom of the page (right next to “Contact Us”). While you may have a FAQs section and include your return policy there, it really is best to separate it and draw attention to it directly. You automatic disclosure of your return policy gives the impression that you are willing to work with the customer to make sure they are fully pleased with their purchase. Brownie points.

Additionally, provide information on your return/exchange policy with all communication with the consumer after a purchase is made. Provide a link to the policy on order confirmation e-mails, shipment notification e-mails and include detailed policy instruction with packing slips.

Easy to Do
While there may be aspects of your return/exchange policy that are tedious and can’t be helped, make the process as easy as possible, all things considered. For example, provide a pre-printed address sticker in the shipment. That way, if a return is necessary, the consumer doesn’t have to look up the address, etc. for your company – they just meet all other requirements and slap the sticker on the box. If you sell smaller products that cost very little to ship, consider providing a prepaid shipment label, so that they consumer doesn’t have to have the inconvenience of going to the post office.

Be Specific
Even if you have a different return/exchange policy for practically every type of item you sell, list the details for returning each item. If you simply provide a return deadline, you will get all sorts of interesting packages and products, with little to no details as to where it came from.

Therefore, it is best that you provide detailed information on what your return process is (such as how to obtain a return item number from the company, the condition the product must be in, the enclosure of order details, the deadline for returns, if there is a restocking fee, etc.). The more details you provide, the better informed consumers will be, and the more likely they are to abide by the policy.

Require Information
I suggest implementing into your return policy a requirement that, should the item be returned, a copy of the original order confirmation must be enclosed. This will insure that, when you receive the item back, you know who it came from, who gets a refund, and all of the other pertinent information related to that item.

Consider Accepting All Returns
Keep in mind the premise of this entire post – easy returns means return customers. If customers are pleased with the complete transaction, including the fact that you took back an item that they didn’t get around to returning until three months after it was received, then they are more likely to come back to you for future purchases.

Granted, there is probably an exception to this aspect of a return policy. You probably wouldn’t want to accept an item that was clearly damaged beyond repair by the customer. And, to avoid the customer claiming that the postal service damaged the item in shipment, require them to insure the item when returning it.

For those returns that aren’t in the best of condition or obviously aren’t new, consider adding a “close-out” section to your website where you sell those returned items at a discounted price. Hey, at least you would get some money back, the customer who returned the item is happy, and a new customer (who doesn’t mind “hand-me-downs”) is happy with their great deal. And, of course, theirs always eBay.


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Customer Reviews Make Business Better
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Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 4)
Preparing for an IRS Audit
Why Small Businesses are Gullible to Scams

By Michelle Cramer
Friday, December 2nd, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Customer Service, Operations |