This guest post is written by Matt Winn. Matt is the Social Media Manager atVolusion, a Grasshopper partner .
Ah, the end of the holidays. It’s a time to wind down, take down the tree and remove the lights from the front yard. Relaxing activities, right? Wrong.
For online business owners, the ordering processing party doesn’t end with the holidays, especially when customers begin returning merchandise. While returns are inevitable, you can reduce the number of customer support questions, chargebacks and overall frustration by creating a foolproof return policy.
1. Prevent returns before they happen
Before you start writing your return policy, go through your previous returns to see why items were sent back to you. Most likely, the expectations your customers had after order weren’t met upon receiving their package. Thus, browse your site to ensure that all product descriptions, product photos and technical specs are accurate and fully-detailed.
2. Focus on a friendly tone
While many of us think that a return policy should be written like a Congressional bill, crafting this document with a customer mindset provides a much better experience. The overall objective of your return policy is to set proper customer expectations so there aren’t disputes when an order is sent back. Thus, avoid legal speak and focus on getting your message across in a way that even the most novice online shopper can understand.
3. Indicate any return charges
One of the biggest questions customers have when returning an online order is whether or not they have to pay for it. While Zappos and other major retailers are known for their free return shipping, not all of us have that kind of budget. So, if you do charge return shipping, be sure to explicitly state that within your return policy, otherwise you’ll face a swarm of angry customers who assumed that the procedure was free.
4. Give customers a timeline
Next, you need to state the timeframe to accept returns. In other words, do customers have 30, 60 or 90 days to return an item? Once you make this decision, prominently include this in your policy to help reduce conflicts when customers try sending their holiday gifts back in late March.
Along the same lines, you also need to inform customers of how they will be credited. Will you be providing them with a cash refund or a store credit? How will customers be notified of said credit? Again, explicitly state these terms in your policy.
5. Tell customers exactly how to send returns
Another major issue online business owners face with their return policy is a lack of clear guidelines on how packages should be returned. Thus, it’s highly recommended to list any return requirements directly within the policy.
Do customers need to send the item back in its original packaging?
Are they allowed to open the item before it’s returned?
What address should the item be returned to?
Is a receipt required when sending back an item?
By considering all of the intricacies that help you process returns faster, you’ll be able to come up with clear directions to help expedite these requests.
6. Don’t hide your return policy
Especially during the holidays, it’s important to highlight your return policy so customers can see it. Not only does this tell customers that you’re running a legitimate website, it also provides them with a quick and easy resource when returning an item.
Try displaying your return policy prominently on your website, whether it’s within your navigation or somewhere in your template. You can also provide a link to your return policy in your order confirmation emails, or even consider including a hard copy within the package itself.
The moral of the story is twofold: 1) use your ecommerce return policy to clearly set customer expectations and 2) never, ever hide behind your return policy. Even though the New Year is often ripe with return processing, it should never become a sticking point in WOWing your customers.
Happy holiday selling! -Matt Winn, Social Media Manager, Volusion
Matt Winn is a Social Media Manager at Volusion, an industry-leading ecommerce software that powers online businesses for over 30,000 clients. Serving as the chief blogger for Volusion’s Ecommerce Blog, Matt has written hundreds of articles on all things ecommerce, ranging from social media to usability. Join him each week on Volusion’s YouTube channel for Two Minute Tuesdays, where you’ll receive two minutes of ecommerce advice to bolster your online success. You can also receive ecommerce news and tips on Facebook and Twitter @volusion.