Use Returns to Cultivate Loyal Customers
Handling returns is often seen as a “necessary evil” for B-to-B marketers. But in fact, it can be a great source of loyal customers. Returns are a fact of life in any catalog business, so why not make the most of them?
Here are some suggestions to turn your returns process from a “necessary evil” into a positive customer experience:
* Have a well-communicated returns policy in both your catalogs and packing slips. Ideally, it’ll be liberal as it’s seldom worth losing a customer over an order.
* Have a well-trained, empathetic customer service team that knows how to take a return — a potentially “bad” situation — and turn it into a satisfied, happy customer.
* Never challenge the reason for a return, but ask probing questions that allow customers to give you valuable information without being threatened. Start with a disarming statement like, “We’d be happy to process that return …” and only then start probing with a statement such as “… but may I ask why the product didn’t meet your expectations?”
* Acknowledge and apologize for any lapses in service or customer disappointments, regardless of blame.
* Sell an alternative product or solution. Most return credits can be more than offset by replacement and/or additional sales made by the processing agent.
* Ask customers at the end of return transaction calls if you’ve met their expectations during the calls.
* Process all returns and credits promptly. Follow up in several days if you don’t receive the return merchandise from the customer.
* Confirm receipt of the return merchandise and processing of the credit via e-mail.
* Call back every customer that’s processed a return, and ask them if their return transactions were handled to their satisfaction.
* Mail customers who’ve returned an offer on their next orders, acknowledging their inconvenience and reinforcing their value as customers.