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Posted April 20, 2001 By Robyn Greenspan     Feedback

Your return policy may help motivate your customers to come back instead of your products.

One of the many responsibilities of any e-tailer is dealing with customer returns - the products that find their way back to you with expectations of a refund.

This is just a part of doing business and oftentimes, the returns have nothing to do with your level of service. A customer can change their mind for a variety of reasons or something they've purchased may not be the proper size, color, etc.

Whatever the reason, maintain a database of customer returns so that you can quickly extrapolate the chief motives for returned items. From that information you can evaluate whether something on your end needs to change. Much like customer feedback, reasons for returned items could divulge a lot of information about your business.

When you inspect the returned merchandise, determine whether it was damaged or defective. Pay close attention to trends in defective merchandise from any particular manufacturer and investigate other options for fulfillment.

Your return policy should be clearly stated on your ordering pages so customers are never confused about the conditions. The most generous policy would entail you absorbing the shipping costs and delivering a full refund. A more stringent policy would have the customer pay for shipping while you issue a store credit for the merchandise. A store credit may guarantee a return visit, but it isn't likely to inspire a high satisfaction rating.

Try to be as liberal and accommodating as possible with customer returns. Your objective is to keep the customer happy and ensure repeat visits. A restrictive return policy could prevent customers from purchasing certain items for fear they'll be stuck with them if they have a problem. Also, if you have an offline component, allow for returns to be made there instead of through the mail.

Related article:
The Deal with Online Returns

Reprinted from ECommerce Guide

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