Holiday Checklist for Commerce Sites: Returns

Like clockwork, as part of the gift-giving season comes the gift-returning season. While the hope is that returns will not happen, it is an unavoidable circumstance of holiday commerce. Gifts may be given to someone who is unfamiliar with a retailer – therefore making a return the customer’s first interaction with a brand. Bring attention to these few suggestions and help improve your overall customer experience, let’s dive into a few areas you can look for improvements immediately.

Return Policy

Review, update and communicate the return policy. The accuracy of this document is of utmost importance. Everyone involved in executing the policy, including store associates and customer services representatives, should be aware of it and know how to remain consistent in the handling of returns. They should also be alerted and included when changes are made to the policy. Any modifications that can streamline the process will help with customer clarity, as well as execution of a smooth interaction. Any way to make the policy simpler without impacting the business should be applied and communicated.

Product Support

The best way to handle a return is to prevent one. This can be as simple as providing the right information about products to your customers. Usage of Customer Generated Content (UGC), particularly Q&A, can help avoid a return. Dedicating some time for internal experts to monitor and respond to questions is ideal. In lieu of this approach, an onsite Knowledge Base (KB) including Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) and product information/manuals will help a customer immensely. Having key content tied to search can make it easier to find. Make sure all onsite support content is linked early in the return policy so as to help a customer avoid a return.

Self-Service Exchanges and Returns

If the return is inevitable, then consider making as much of the process self-service as possible. Customers expect to be able to solve their own problems, so allowing them to initiate a return can result in a better perception. If a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) process, of fixed process, is used, consider automating as much as possible. A quick initial response will make a customer feel like their problems are important. In particular, the exchange process should be streamlined. Getting a customer the right size or correcting an issue with a defective product as quickly as possible can help save a sale.

Omni-channel Experience

When developing a return policy, make sure that every customer touch-point is considered. Allowing cross-channel returns is a must. For example, a customer should be able to buy online and return to their nearest store or vice-versa. Again, consistency is important. The return policy online should not differ from the in-store policy, nor should they be executed independently. A singular representation of the brand across channels is important, and exchanges or returns should be no different.

Each business is different, and so is the right approach to returns and exchanges for customers. Some improvement can always be made after reflection on the current state. Making the return and exchange experience clear and pain-free can result in gaining a new customer and keeping old ones when you keep these topics, top of mind.

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