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How to Handle Customer Returns

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Last editedApr 20222 min read

Returns are very commonplace, especially in e-commerce. In fact as much as26% of clothing bought online is returned in the US. To counteract this, you might think it would be easier just to make returns difficult or impossible. But this actually won’t lead to higher profits, as customers are unlikely to make return purchases with businesses that don’t have a good returns policy.

So, in order to keep customers coming back, a favorable customer returns approach is essential. In this post, we’ll take you through some of the best practices for improving the customer return process.

What is returns management?

Return management refers to the customer return process, specifically the action taken with customers (exchange or refund) and how the business deals with the returned items (resell, recycle or throw away). Customers are both more likely to shop with a store that has good returns management and far more likely to come back if their return is handled well. Make sure you capitalize on this by improving your returns management and handling customer returns efficiently.

How to handle customer returns: top tips

Return management can get costly. However, there are a number of ways you can proactively reduce the number of returns you receive and thereby lessen the expense associated with them. Some of these ways are outlined below:

1.  Minimize losses

You can minimize your losses due to returns by adding certain prerequisites to the process. For example, some vendors charge a fee for items returned without their packaging or the tag. Others only offer store credit in exchange for returns to ensure the money will still be spent on the store.

Another way to minimize the loss for you is to suggest other similar products which might suit the customer better, meaning they still opt for a purchase with you.

2. Keep records of all returns, exchanges and refunds

You can easily keep track of returns on your point of sale (POS) system, and this is essential to good customer returns practice. All inventory should be returned and accounted for with purchase orders, with any losses noted.

You can also take identification from customers returning items. This can help ensure that the return isn’t fraudulent and it was in fact the same customer who made the initial purchase. This information can also be added to your records, making it easy to identify any customers that are abusing the system. These include, for example, customers that are repeatedly buying items for one time use and then returning them.

3. Providing stellar customer service

As a good return experience is crucial to getting customers to make repeat purchases, it pays to streamline the customer return process with excellent customer service. Make sure you train staff on how to handle returns, and specifically on how to deal with challenging customers. This doesn’t mean that you always have to agree to a return, but the default should be balanced in the customer’s favor.

Making the process quick and straightforward will also help keep customers onboard. As shoppers are already dealing with the disappointment of not finding an item to their liking, they don’t want to also face additional difficulties at the return stage. To make it as easy as possible, you can dedicate an aisle or desk to returns in-store. It also helps to make sure all members of staff are trained to process returns, as chasing down a senior member of staff to do it can slow things down considerably.

4. Analyze return data

Collecting information about returns can be very useful for limiting them in future. You can use the data collected to identify trends in returns and formulate a plan of action to remedy it. For example, if customers are returning items because they’re the wrong fit, you can respond by providing clearer sizing information in product descriptions online, or by making sure there are fitting rooms in-store.

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