Handle Returns So That Customers Will Return
In today’s soft economy, many multichannel marketers are trying to significantly reduce returns in order to boost profits. Some companies are putting more restrictions and conditions on returns, which I think will cause further erosion of sales. After all, who really wants to buy a product that can’t be returned, or that carries so many conditions for return?
Others, however, are doing what I call “save the sale.” They’re working with customers to help them understand the product and how to install or use it. Electronics, software and technical products are far and away the biggest problem areas that could benefit from this approach. For example, in the last two weeks, our firm had lengthy, painful experiences with two of the major U.S. software companies. One of our employees spent five hours on the phone with an India-based call center while trying to install a new version on a laptop. If we had any choice, we would’ve asked for our money back.
Bill Crutchfield, founder and president of consumer electronics cataloger Crutchfield, learned early on in his business about customer returns. He told one of our benchmarking ShareGroups that he almost quit the business more than 20 years ago because returns were so high. Luckily before he did so, he decided to call many of the customers who were returning products to find out why. What he learned was that customers were frustrated by not being able to install the company’s car stereos in their vehicles. There were no instructions provided by the vendors! He realized he’d have to invest in documenting how to install those products in each and every vehicle.
Today Crutchfield has a database of thousands of models that its technicians can use to talk customers through the installation. It’s also developed product mountings to hold the products to the car dashboard and interior, and it produces customer vehicle-specific instructions with pictures. In the end, Bill Crutchfield’s lesson resulted in one of America’s largest, most innovative and customer responsive multichannel marketers.