How Return Policies Can Make or Break Your Customer Experience



If your company doesn’t have a generous return policy, you could be losing customers. Sixty percent of people look at a retailer’s return policy before making purchases, and 73 percent say they’re turned off by policies with too many restrictions. Whether you sell online, at a brick-and-mortar location, or both, the return options you offer have a profound impact on the customer experience.

The Importance of Customer Experience

Customers talk about their shopping experiences, and their comments can be seen by an audience of thousands. Word-of-mouth advertising now includes online customer reviews, and the majority of shoppers rely on these reviews to help them make purchasing decisions. Any business able to offer a better experience than its competitors has an automatic advantage.

Your return policy can change the way customers view your business and put you a cut above the rest. The way the policy is structured, how you communicate return options and the ease of making a return are all part of the customer experience. Happy customers become brand advocates, so your goal should always be to improve their impression of your business.

Elements of a Stellar Return Policy

What changes can you make to your current return policy to offer the best possible experience to customers? Consider some of the steps other retailers are taking:

• Expanding the window of time in which products are eligible for return
• Providing free returns and free return shipping
• Offering receipt-free returns as part of store loyalty programs

Whether or not you choose to make similar changes, your return policy should be transparent and easy to understand. Lay out rules regarding how refunds and replacements are handled, what products are excluded from returns and what customers must provide for their purchases to be accepted for return. Pay attention to the reasons customers request returns in the first place so that you can adjust other business practices and policies to minimize the number of products sent back in the future.

Preparing for Hassle-Free Returns

Support your generous return policy with additional services aimed at making the process as easy as possible. Ship prepaid return labels with products sold online, or send labels via email in response to return requests. Arrange for free package pickups with your preferred shipping company so that customers don’t have to make a trip to the post office. If you also operate a physical location, allow products bought online to be returned in the store.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, a mobile point-of-sale system (mPOS) can simplify returns by providing electronic receipts. Digital copies of receipts are easier to keep track of than paper printouts and can be pulled up on a customer’s smartphone at any time as proof of purchase.

Today’s customer-driven marketplace has made easy returns an integral part of the shopping experience. A lenient policy attracts new customers, brings previous customers back and builds brand loyalty. Review and update your current policy to increase sales and take advantage of the benefits of long-term customer relationships.