15th December, 2015
Making a sale can be one of the best aspects of being in business, so as a business owner it’s natural to be a little disappointed if a customer needs to return a product. However, returns, refunds and exchanges are all part of doing business.
Many business owners consider a return as the end of a customer relationship and don’t put enough care and service into the process. This is a big mistake — the way a return is handled can actually define a business in customers’ eyes. It can also be a great sales opportunity if handled well. If you keep customers happy during the returns process, they gain faith in your ability to understand and meet their needs through your products and services.
The first step in keeping customers happy at any stage in business is to manage customer expectations. It is important to be clear and up front in your communication with customers around returns.
Make customers aware of your returns policy when purchasing the time of sale. Promote your policy (particularly if it’s a generous one) on social media, your website, and receipt docket. Also place signage in your place of business. It is best to have the policy communicated in plain English rather than referring to legal jargon.
Have a generous, flexible returns policy that takes into account the real needs of the customer. Take away the risk of purchase for the customer where possible. Of course, you must balance your policy with the impact to your bottom line.
Keep the returns process friendly and courteous. It is important that the customer doesn’t feel blamed or made to feel that they are doing something wrong or trying to ‘rip you off’. Ensure your attitude is one of service, and work hard to make it a pleasant experience. Don’t take a return personally; it’s just part of business.
Keep the process as easy and quick as possible. Keep the forms that customers have to fill out to a minimum. It is an inconvenience to the customer to have to return a product even without a barrage of extra paperwork!
If you are replacing an item, keep the customer updated regularly of where they are in the process and of delivery dates.
Never get into an argument with a customer. Just say yes and complete the refund or exchange.
Be calm and ascertain why they are refunding — not in a defensive way, but in a genuine way to find out if there is something wrong with the product. Also by gathering information, you may be able to direct the customer to a substitute product for exchange or purchase.
If the customer paid for the product or service by credit card, credit back the credit card so that there is no confusion when they receive their statement.
If the purchase was made online, offer to pay for the return postage for the customer that way they won’t feel out of pocket.
Remember the customer is probably as disappointed as you are — if not more — that the sale didn’t work out. Acknowledge the inconvenience they have experienced in buying something that didn’t turn out to be right for them.
It’s important to make the returns process a positive experience for the customer to ensure they will do business with you again. If you are getting lots of returns, this is an indication that there may be something wrong about your product, pricing or marketing so it’s worth getting independent professional advice to help you investigate the cause further.