What You Can Learn from Your Returns
Most B-to-B marketers ignore their returns; they are viewed as part of the business. Nobody likes them or wants them, but you must deal with them. So why not deal with them the best way possible?
I have a client who’s a returns manager who loves returns. That’s because she’s charged with monitoring returns to improve the business. She also understands that the way you handle a return can lead to losing a customer. Or it can create a loyal customer for life.
Here is how she approaches her job.
* Each return is an opportunity to learn something and/or retain a customer. She calls each one, confirms the return, apologizes, probes for useful information and resells the customer. Often a replacement order is taken during that call.
* When inherent problems are found with the product, its catalog presentation, the way the rep sold it, packaging/shipping damage or any other issue details, they’re meticulously summarized to separate the one-time occurrences from trends. Trends quickly are reported, and future problems are averted.
* Returns merchandise is rehabilitated or marked for return to vendor.
* All customers who return items automatically receive a written apology and a $10 gift certificate they can apply toward their next order.
* Customer retention is measured for all customers who experienced a return separate from those who didn’t. Not surprising, those with a favorable return experience have greater retention.
* Before products are selected, the “returns lady” gets a vote. If the product has inherent return problems, such as confusing pack size or poor packaging, she spots it, often by throwing the packaged product across the warehouse to see how it fares. She also makes suggestions to improve catalog presentation, copy and online descriptions.
* As a result, return transactions have been falling, and customer retention post-returns has been increasing.
If your company doesn’t have a respected returns maven, it should. Comments or questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence Inc., a strategic consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at www.b2bdmi.com or (954) 566-4451.