React When It’s Sent Back
When it comes to processing returns, it’s all a matter of approach. Certainly, nobody wants a lot of returns and processing. But if you approach returns processing as more of an opportunity than a burden, you may be surprised at the results.
“The biggest mistake I see with the returns process is that returns are treated as an operational procedure. But it’s an excellent marketing opportunity,” says Debra Ellis, president of Barnardsville, N.C.-based Wilson & Ellis Consulting. “It’s personalized contact with the customer that you don’t get when a customer orders online or through the mail.”
The bottom line is that customers who’ve had positive experiences returning items tend to be more loyal to those companies. “The best customers you’ll ever have are those that have had problems that were satisfactorily resolved,” she says. “Once they have had a problem, if you resolve the problem quickly and easily, you have increased their sense of trust and loyalty.”
Incorporating a personal touch throughout the returns process — such as sending e-mails confirming receipt of the returned item and alerting customers when the replacement product has been shipped — is a great way to make customers feel like they’re more than just another file number. “These are valuable customers,” Ellis says, “and if things are satisfactorily resolved, they have higher lifetime values than customers that just place orders and have no issues.”
Ellis emphasizes that solid communication all the way down the line ensures that returns are dealt with effectively. “If you start with good communication up front, you’ll minimize your returns on the back end,” Ellis says. “When the returns do come in, those customers will more than likely be resellable, unless the returned products were damaged in the process.”
Provide All Information
Give customers easy access to information on how to return items in the catalog, on the Web site and in the actual shipment itself. Be sure to answer the following questions:
• Does the product have to be returned in its original
• Should the tags be left on?