If you look at returns as a major loss for your business, you are selling yourself short. USPS states that 89 percent of shoppers will return to ecommerce sites when they’ve had a positive return experience with that store. This means that here is a huge opportunity to welcome seasonal returns with a fantastic customer experience – turning a temporary loss into long-term customer loyalty.
It all starts with having a clear return policy and training your employees on making those customer connections during difficult moments.
Facilitate an Easy Experience
If your return policy wasn’t easily visible when your customers made their purchase, it’s you that dropped the ball on communicating your expectations. Be prepared to apologize and accommodate your customers whenever possible; then, make sure your return policy is prominently visible on your receipts, cash wrap and website for future customers. After all, it is your job to make sure that all return policies are clearly stated.
Also keep in mind that, according to USPS, over 65 percent of e-commerce customer returns are due to fulfillment errors, so be prepared to take accountability for mistakes and wrong orders (even if they weren’t your fault). In fact, the best way to view these scenarios is to look at returns as an opportunity to make an impact with new customers. Offering basic customer service such as offering customers a glass of water or tea can mean the difference between a one-time return and a lifelong relationship. Patience, a smile and the willingness to process the transaction graciously goes a long way, as well.
Coach Employees on Attitude
While you might be completely aware of the fact that returns are an opportunity for repeat business, this knowledge isn’t effective if you don’t communicate it to your employees. Customer service often falls by the wayside when processing returns, especially when associates are commission-based since it often means money is deducted directly from their paychecks. Commission based or not, however, the engagement your employees have with your customers can directly hurt – or help – your long-term business.
If your employees are disgruntled or rude to customers making returns, it can be detrimental to your store and your reputation. To avoid this, set expectations among your staff and set them high. Be proactive with your team by holding a meeting to train employees on how to handle each type of potential return with the kindness and enthusiasm with which they would greet a customer making a purchase.
Connect on Social Media
Leverage the power of communication anytime you have an opportunity to connect with customers, and returns are no exceptions. Incentivizing customers to connect with your brand on social media after a return experience can help do a few things for both your brand and your customers. First, it will enable new or less experienced customers of yours to get a feel for your company’s ethos. Second, it offers customers who are coming in for a return the chance to stay connected with your brand post return experience and third, social media can show customers which of their friends and family members are already loving your company. Finally, social media can help lay the framework for a future purchase since by being connected they will keep your company in mind for future purchasing opportunities. That is, of course, only if you use social media regularly to stay in touch with your customers. For more social media ideas, click here.
Finally, by implementing the tips and training techniques reviewed in this article, you’ll be able to turn ambivalent customers with returns into your most enthusiastic brand advocates. Customer service is the main differentiator here, so keep your employees motivated to deliver excellent customer service throughout every touchpoint of the return process… and in return, gain more business year round.
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By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, RetailMinded.com