Tips for Handling Returns (720 words)
Be fast, consistent and discreet, and you'll have happy customers who will come back again
By Chris Merritt
Put yourself in this customer's shoes: In the spring, Susan telephone-ordered an A-line jumper in the popular, seasonal color "shrimp" and in her usual size. When the jumper arrived, it fit too snugly in the hips. So Susan sent it back with a request for the next-largest size. A month passed. She had no jumper, no acknowledgment from the company and, when her credit card bill arrived, no credit for returned or exchanged merchandise.
She finally received an e-mail notice from the company three weeks later apologizing for being out of stock and informing her that they had refunded her charge. The e-mail contained Susan's credit card number: a security breach in the minds of many people. It was the first and last time Susan ordered from that catalog company.
Each time a new shopper orders from your catalog or Web site, they bring a sense of excitement and fresh expectations to the experience. But at each stage of the ordering process, there is a chance to sour all of the positive impressions your catalog has made. The last likely point for a potentially satisfied customer to become an ex-customer is in the handling of returns.
The secret to success when handling returns can be summed up in a few simple words, well suited as a cataloger's returns mantra: be fast, be consistent, be discreet. Each aspect of this mantra has a measure of common sense behind it …
Customers need a reasonable expectation of how long a return or exchange will take. Every catalog retailer should know how long it takes the company to handle a returned item and be able to convey that information to the public with confidence. Retailers need to keep abreast of outright returns, exchanges and undeliverables, know the number of items handled in each category and how long it takes to process each type.