Take My Purchase, Please
Updated · Mar 19, 2001
Author: Maura Burke
I shop. Sometimes I buy a color that’s hideous on me. Or, I ignore the fact that the Krispy Kreme donut breakfasts have increased my waist size and I buy skirts a size too small. In other words, I’m human and I make mistakes when I shop. Because I recognize that, I look for return policies before I make online purchases. I bet you do, too. And if you’re like me, you’ve abandoned the shopping cart because you couldn’t find a policy or the policy you read basically said you’re out of luck if you make a mistake.
We’ve recently been bombarded with disheartening statistics regarding the abandoned shopping cart. Experts cite reasons such as consumer unease with credit card transactions over the Internet, difficult and too inquisitive forms, and site crashes as the primary causes of transaction abandonment.
I’d like to add another reason: an unfriendly return policy.
If your customers are abandoning the shopping cart before completing the transaction, it could be that your return policy does not make them feel comfortable about purchasing from your site.
Does your policy set an unrealistic time limit in which your customer must make the return, or they’re out of luck?
Does your policy imply you expect your customers to know a product meets their expectations without removing the packaging?
Does your policy place the burden of resolving damage or loss claims on your customers?
If you are an online merchant, it is vital your return process and policy inspires customer trust. How can this be accomplished?
Make the Process Easy
Ideally, you would provide prepaid return shipping labels and instructions with each purchase. If you don’t wish to absorb the return shipping cost, then provide the return shipping labels and instructions. At the very least, provide this information on your web site, and make it easy to find.
Use small package carriers who provide tools your customers can use to track their shipments, check on rates, service schedules and more. USPS, FedEx, and UPS all provide tools that can be used to enhance your customer service.
Assume Responsibility for Damages or Loss in Transit
Huh? I’m not kidding. As a shipper you have more clout with the carrier than the customer does. YOU are the carrier’s customer. Filing damage or loss claims with carriers is time consuming, at best. Expecting your customer to deal with that hassle, after already being disappointed because of the damage or loss, won’t engender future business with that customer.
Reduce the risk of damage or loss by using reputable carriers who have proven track records for making on-time and damage-free shipments.
Make the Policy Clear and Positive
You will likely want to restrict your acceptance of returned items. Set a reasonable time frame in which returns can be accepted. If the integrity of your products can be compromised by handling, set parameters for the condition of the returned items – unused, still in original packaging, etc.
You may be thinking in terms of what you’re not going to do. Instead, think of it terms or what you are doing for the customer and word your restrictions as positively as possible. As an example, instead of saying, “We won’t accept returns made 30 days after purchase,” say “We cheerfully accept the return of any of our products which failed to delight you. We do ask that you make the return within 30 days of purchase.” The customer will read your positive approach to returns as a commitment to his satisfaction and a show of confidence in your products.
In summary, remember that accepting returns is part of doing business. Making your return process and policy easy for your customers will inspire trust as well as enhance your online sales and customer service reputation.
Reprinted from InternetDay