Handle Returns So That Customers Will Return
Lifetime Return Policies
I’d follow the leadership example of companies like Lands’ End and L.L. Bean, with a “no quibble” guarantee. Here’s a true story about L.L. Bean: All of its original Maine hunting boots had product problems and most were returned. Company founder Leon Leonwood Bean stayed true to his word and refunded the purchase price. But he also stuck with it, correcting the problems and posting a sign in his store: “I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and the customer still satisfied. — L.L. Bean, 1916.” If you go to Bean’s Web site (www.llbean.com) and look under “Company Information,” you’ll find many other sterling things it has to say about customer satisfaction.
Drawing upon our own experiences and the Crutchfield and L.L. Bean examples, here are four action points to consider regarding returns.
1. Dig into the reasons for returns through return correspondence, Web and chat messages, and most importantly, call-center dialog.
2. Merchants should buy net of planned returns rather than gross demand to lessen effects on inventory levels.
3. Returns cost more than orders to process. Streamline processes and systems to accommodate returns.
4. Credit customer accounts quickly. Customers are at their credit limits. Lagging credits and refunds add to customer dissatisfaction.
Remember: How direct marketers treat their customers helps them differentiate the customer shopping experience from that of the mass retailer.
Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a multichannel operations and fulfillment consulting firm with expertise in multichannel systems, warehouse, call center, inventory and benchmarking. Learn more online at http://www.fcbco.com .