Retail returns prove costly

Every retailer would like to find the silver bullet that improves customer service. Loyalty schemes, discounts, improved wait times at the checkout lines are all experimented with and important, but what is the single change that almost every retailer could make that would have a dramatic improvement on how customer rate their service?

Improving the product return process.

You know the problem. You tried something on and it looked OK in the shop, or you were in a hurry and didn’t really check for long enough. Then once you are back home and in front of the mirror, it just doesn’t look so good.

If you bought the item from the regular store then you have to go back, find the customer service desk, explain the problem and hope that they can replace it with your size without suspecting that you have been wearing it already. If you bought it online then suddenly you need to fish around inside the details of how to return it by post – possibly involving a long wait at the local post office.

Nobody wants to return items, but sometimes it is an essential part of shopping. When buying clothes online many customers will buy a couple of different sizes to see which fits best, always intending to return the other.

In the US, recent data indicated that almost two-thirds of online shoppers check the returns policy of a retailer before even making a purchase. So getting your returns process right is not just about making life easier for customers who need to return an item.

This can be an even more important point for products like cameras than clothes. There is an assumption that if a shirt does not fit, you can return it, but if you buy a hi-tech product from Nikon or Panasonic, then can it be returned if it is not faulty? What if the product is not quite what you expected?

Returns are annoying for any retailer, but they are an essential part of the retail process – getting it wrong can mean you don’t get any purchases in the first place.

Recycling polystyrene plastic through Walmart’s Return Centers


Photo by Walmart licensed under Creative Commons

About Roy Thomas
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1 Response to Retail returns prove costly

  1. Eptica says:

    Very true Roy, returns are an integral part of retail and handled badly will lose you future customers as they won’t come back. Making returns policies clear and easy to understand on the web and in-store is a key step to building consumer confidence – don’t hide it away in the small print but ensure it is visible and simple to find.

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