It’s hard to believe but Christmas is less than one week away! Once all the packages have been unwrapped and decorations taken down, the real fun begins – dealing with all those returns. Returns are a burden on customers and retailers alike but for different reasons. Customers want a hassle-free return process that is quick and easy. On the other hand, retail fulfillment groups must have processes in place to check items back in and issue appropriate refunds while keeping track of inventory. Then there are the brick and mortar stores who have the job of assisting customers face-to-face who certainly would rather be doing anything else but standing in a long line. So how can you move the needle on customer-facing performance metrics during the return process?
Every customer interaction – from the initial purchase through the processing of a return – is an opportunity to keep and grow strong customer relationships. Here are a few ways to keep your customer loyalty intact during the return process:
Provide Prepaid Shipping Labels – Customers return items for multiple reasons, but it ultimately comes down to the fact they are not satisfied with the product they received. Why would you want to pay extra to return an item you weren’t happy with? You wouldn’t.
Include Reusable Return Packages – Keep things easy! No one wants to rummage around the house for a box or purchase shipping materials from the logistics store to mail an unwanted product. Consumers shop online for a reason – for convenience. Make the return process convenient as well.
Enact Simple Return Policies – A return policy should not require a degree in rocket science to understand. Provide customers with an appropriate return timeframe, offer gift receipts, and consider relaxing your return policy during the holiday season.
Ensure Your Frontline Specialists Have Strong Communication Skills – Our research shows that customer satisfaction and willingness to recommend the brand are directly related to the customer’s perception of the engagement specialist’s communication skills. Even in no-win situations, customers can be willing to recommend your brand if the overall experience was positive.
If you’re a consumer making your way back to the store for that dreaded return, we understand your pain. Here are a few tips to keep in mind that might alleviate some frustration before you head out the door to fight the crowd.
Keep the Original Receipt – If you are hoping to receive a full refund amount, hold on to your original receipt or gift receipt. Almost all stores require proof of purchase if you’re seeking a full refund. If you don’t have a receipt, be prepared to accept a merchandise credit for the current price of the item – not the original purchase price. And do your research ahead of time regarding the store’s return policy. While some stores may relax their policies over the holidays, others may implement stricter terms.
Plan Your Visit – A quick Google search can provide you with information regarding the busiest shopping hours for a retail location. Plan your visit accordingly to try to avoid the crowds. Of course, if you are planning to head out right after the holidays expect lines and frustrated shoppers.
Customers return items all year long, but there is certainly an influx during the holiday season. Don’t ruin the customer’s holiday cheer with a bad return experience that leaves them feeling like you’re the Grinch. After all, word of mouth travels fast and consumers have more power than ever to positively or negatively impact your brand. As you think about your customer experience in 2019 and beyond, resolve to make it a personal and effortless experience. Otherwise, you might be the next cautionary tale.
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