Returns are inevitable for retail businesses, whether they be brick and mortar, online, or both. Your job as a business owner is to develop a return policy that will get you increased sales and repeat customers. Remember, word of mouth is one of your most powerful (and free!) marketing tools and an excellent return policy is a sure way to get you some positive reviews.

Preventing Returns

That said, you still want to avoid returns where possible. There are some simple things you can do to keep your customers happy from the get-go.

  • Over-deliver: Give your customers more than what they anticipated. They will have a more favorable feeling toward your company and the products that they receive. If they just spent a lot of money on a swanky new electronic device, make sure that the packaging is sleek and attractive. If the item that they ordered was sensitive, go the extra mile by mailing using discrete packaging.

Another huge way to over-deliver is to ship items as quickly as possible. If the customer couldn’t scrounge up the extra money to pay for two-day shipping, but you get them their item in three days or less instead of the five to seven that they paid for, you have earned a loyal customer. Don’t break the bank by giving everyone two-day shipping if it’s not in your business plan, but getting products out faster than expected is almost always a win-win situation. 

  • Ship-shape Shipping: Nobody wants to receive a package that has been banged up or broken. Do whatever you can to ensure that your products get to customers in pristine condition. Make sure that items are on time and intact by packaging them well and going through a reputable delivery service.
  • Maintain Product Integrity: One of the surest triggers for a return is if the item received is not what the customer saw online. Take the utmost care to make sure that your online products match what you are shipping. Provide the customer with multiple views, color swatches, accurate product descriptions and correct dimensions, so they are fully informed before making their purchase. When customers receive exactly what they order, you are building trust that will translate to future sales (and positive reviews).

Managing Returns

Regardless of how much care you take to send out a quality product, some people will still return merchandise. Perhaps they didn’t pay close enough attention to what they were ordering, or maybe the item just didn’t fit their needs. Regardless, how you handle the inevitable returns can also impact your public relations. It’s in your best interest to go about things the right way.

  • Make It Easy for the Customer: Returning items should not be a hassle. Make sure that your customer service representatives are top-notch so your customers don’t feel like they are given the run-around when they inquire about returns. Providing printable shipping labels, offering free returns, and allowing for in-store returns are all ways to keep the return process simple for your customers.
  • Be Crystal Clear: Making returns easy for the customer is all fine and good but you need to be very clear about your exact return policy from the get-go. As a business owner, you aren’t required to accept every single return that is brought back to your store. Make sure that your customers know the ins and outs of your return policy before they make a purchase. Set a well-defined time frame and stay within those boundaries

Train your staff to only accept returns that have all original packaging and items in pristine condition. It’s in your best interest to be courteous at all times and to bend over backward for your customers but you will not make everyone happy all of the time. Once you have your policies in place, stick to your guns but make sure that they are fair and customer-oriented.  

If you switch your mindset from returns being a nuisance to being a possible source of additional revenue, it’s easier to see each return as an opportunity. When your customers have positive experiences when they return merchandise, they are more likely to come back as a repeat customer and give positive reviews.