Sooner or later, someone is going to want to return something they bought from your online store. How you handle this process can decide whether or not that customer returns to buy from you again, even after having a bad experience with one product. Your returns policy will depend on what kind of industry you are in. For example, you cannot have the same returns policy for electronics and for underwear, but there are certain things you can do to make sure it is as usable as possible, without costing you a fortune.
1) Know the Law
Consumers are savvy about their rights, and so you need to be too. Regardless of your product, there are certain minimum consumer protection laws in most countries that govern when a person is entitled to a refund, and in how much time. You can choose to stick to the minimum here, or you can tailor it to suit your website specifically. Either way, if your returns policy does not meet the minimum legal requirements, someone will eventually call you out on it.
2) Protect Yourself
While it’s important to worry about your customers, it is equally important to make sure that they don’t bankrupt you by constantly returning products you cannot resell. Make sure that if you sell something consumable, or something that loses value immediately after being opened or used, that you protect yourself as much as possible against abuse of your returns policy.
If you buy your stock wholesale, a big part of this is comparing your returns policy to that of your suppliers. If you will take a return in certain circumstances, but they won’t, this gap is where you will bleed profits. You need to decide if the customer satisfaction you gain from doing these returns is a worthwhile investment.
3) Make it Simple
This doesn’t just mean make it simple for your customers. If you employ staff, make sure the process is easy for them to understand and complete from end to end, and that they are properly trained on how to handle returns. If it’s just you, then you need returns to not be something that take up half your day when they happen.
From the customer side, companies like Amazon and Asos get it right – they ship return paperwork with products, or make it easily available on their website. Most importantly – they don’t make it difficult to figure out how to return something. This means that nobody feels the need to call them and waste man-hours finding out something that is hidden somewhere on your website.
4) Integrate Returns Into Your Ecommerce Platform
Some Ecommerce platforms, like Interspire and Magento, will be able to handle returns natively. For others you will need a plugin, or even some custom development work. If you don’t know how to set it up, pay a developer to get it working for you. It might cost a lot at the time, but it will save you time, and mistakes, down the line. When you’re processing 3 orders a week, it’s easy to keep track of which were returned, but while activity is low it is important to implement scalable processes that will be able to cope as your business grows.