Creating a Return Policy that Leads to Customer Loyalty

by Jeanna Courter on March 31, 2016

Return items are par for the course for online retailers. How a company handles returns is the difference between a happy customer and a lost opportunity. Retailers that provide good customer service can expect a higher percentage of repeat business. According to a study conducted by comScore, consumers are 82% more likely to place an order when an online retailer has a hassle-free, no-cost returns policy that does not require a restocking fee or return shipping fee. What’s more, 92% of shoppers are likely to make a future purchase if the company offered an easy return experience.

Customers return items for many reasons. Is the item defective? Or maybe it is an unwanted gift, the wrong size or the customer simply changed their mind. Regardless, your customers want a simple and flexible return process. Basing your return policy on creating a positive experience will prove beneficial to your business since studies show that customers who initiate the most returns are typically your most loyal shoppers.

Here are our tips for creating a policy that turns returns into repeat customers:

Make sure your return policy is easy to find. Give customers easy access to view your returns policy by posting it on your website, in order confirmation emails and on the packing slip. Clearly state your policy on exchanges, store credit and/or a cash refund and the timeframe customers must return the product within whether that is 30, 60, 90 or more days after the purchase. Making your return policy visible will help you build trust with your customers and give them peace of mind during the purchasing process.

Ensure your policy has clear and simple instructions. Don’t use complex terms that could be confusing to customers. Clearly stating your policy in a way that is easy to understand will help counter feelings of hesitation customers may have during the purchasing process and decrease shopping cart abandonment. This will also save your company time and money by handling less customer inquiries about the returns process.

Offer free returns and include a return shipping label with the original order. If at all possible, avoid having the customer pay for return shipping. Offering free returns can increase a customer’s confidence in your company and shows you are committed to customer service. Even though the customer may have not been happy with the product, the ease of the return process will earn you their loyalty in the future. Take your commitment to the customer experience one step further by including a return shipping label with the original order or adding a one-click return option through your ecommerce site that generates a return label for the customer to print.

Survey the customer why they are returning the product. It is important to find out why customers are returning your items to help you better market your products. For example, your company is receiving a large number of returns on a new dress. By surveying the customers, you may find out that most customer's reason for returning is that the fit is too large. Knowing this information, you can note on your site that the dress is not true to size and runs one size larger than normal. By doing this, you can decrease the number of future returns of this item.

The key to turning returns into repeat customers is empathy. One should develop a return policy and procedures that they would be comfortable with as the customer. It is as simple as following the golden rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Don't you agree?

The goal is to make doing business with you easy. When returns are as uncomplicated, undemanding and painless as possible, you show customers you value them, increasing the chances they will purchase from you again.

Topics: Customer Service, eCommerce, returns, return policy