From the Black Friday sale to January holidays, it marks the busiest season for eCommerce companies. A report in 2017 states that almost two-thirds of consumers return at least one item back to the retailer. Data analysis in 2019 showed that retail sales grew by 3.4% in the USA making it the biggest year for e-commerce sales. The analysis also provided an interesting aspect of eCommerce sales, almost eight out of ten people are likely to return an item. In 2019, eCommerce sales amount to more than 3.5 trillion dollars which are expected to double by 2020. A huge portion of these sales happening right after the holidays.
For eCommerce platforms, handling these returns is a daunting nightmare. In 2018, Amazon reported its best year of sales on holidays. But by the end of January 2019, the National Retail Federation estimated that almost 13 percent of these sales were made redundant with product returns.
With billions being lost due to inept return handling, it is high time that eCommerce platforms understand how to handle returns in order to avoid losses and maintain their customer base. Much like that, customer support representatives must understand how to deal with customers who are asking for a product to be shipped back and the money returned to their accounts. Here are a few examples of how eCommerce platforms and employees can better handle post-holiday returns:
Be Honest About It
Let us say you are looking for a pair of shoes online and come across a beautiful pair. You place an order for the product and when it arrives, you see the color isn’t the same as it looked in the photo and moreover it has a defect in its sole. Seeing no other option, you decide to return it only to find that the return policy isn’t available on discounted products. Left enraged, you decide to complain about it to senior management of the company. Your request falls on deaf ears. The last option is to move for consumer forums and go to the company’s social media handle to write about your experience. Things wouldn’t have come to this point if you had gone into the finer print of that company’s return policy. That is one bad experience among countless others. For anyone who has shopped online, people understand how to read the return policy in detail before making a purchase. It didn’t just happen overnight; this phenomenon came about with millions of bad experiences. A recent survey showed that almost 65% of buyers are first likely to read about the return policies of a company. If you want to grow as an eCommerce retailer, you will have to be transparent with your refund policy. If not, your customer support executives would be overburdened with handling refund requests and frustrated customers all the time.
Have Easy-to-Understand Return Policies
If you have laid out every detail of the return policies, it is a great first step you have taken. It doesn’t just end with this step. Take a deep look and try to see if the return policies are perfectly clear. Will a customer be able to perfectly understand it? Don’t use jargon and difficult-to-understand terms. Make the writing intelligible to the common people; if they are not able to understand it clearly, they will likely be suspicious of it. There are a few things to keep in mind while writing and displaying your return policies.
Pacing Up The Refund Process
The refund process has been completely revolutionized since the advent of e-commerce platforms. Gone are the days when people would have to wait a month for their refund to be generated. People can now receive payments as quickly as within 3-5 days. The Internet has truly brought the world together on a single platform. Many companies based in one country and catering to customers worldwide would be using a Paypal-like service which guarantees the money will be reflected in the bank account after three days. But, that is not what the problem is when it comes to bog down refund processes. A customer service representative would receive a refund request which would be forwarded to the person in charge of looking after it; after that, the request will be sent to the accounts team to release the refund. The process which has to be followed is unnecessarily elongated. If you wish to have a loyal customer base, the refund process must be quickened and smoothed out. It has also been proven in recent studies that almost half the people will make an additional purchase from an eCommerce retailer while requesting a refund for another product.
Change Your Refund Policy
Every customer expects a smooth return of products and a refund of money from an eCommerce retailer. But, handling returns and refunds can be quite a messy affair. One must receive the returned product, check it for any damage, repackage it, place it with a tag, and then release a request to another team for a refund. Inefficient handling costs the eCommerce industry billions of dollars every year. There is another way to make the refunds easier for the company and Amazon has proved that over time. An eCommerce company can have its own virtual currency, which can directly credit to a customer’s account in case a refund is applied. Another way would be to assure discounts to the customer in their next order if they take the virtual currency in place of getting the money wired back. Ecommerce platforms also offer cashback in their own virtual currency to make the users be loyal to the retailer. Look at Amazon and see how many of its customers have they been able to convince to use their own virtual currency. If a retailer can do that, they will minimize the refund costs, make the refunds easier, and assure themselves of a loyal customer base.
Keeping An Eye On The Return Route
Almost every eCommerce platform now offers its customers a bird-eye view of their package route. Any customer can check-in and see where their product has reached. They can check if it has been packaged, shipped, or an executive is out to deliver the product. While that holds true for ordering and receiving the product, the story is quite the opposite when we talk about product returns. Less than 10% of eCommerce retailers employ the same technology when it comes to returning the product. Every customer has a worry- about the package being lost. If an eCommerce retailer ties up with a parcel service and gets their return labels packed with their products. It will make the whole process easier for everybody. The customer would be able to keep track of their package and the company would have a happier customer base. What’s more? Partnering up with one parcel service would help the company cut down on its return costs of shipping.
Give Out Support On All Fronts
We understand that holiday seasons are one of the busiest for eCommerce platforms and honestly, for their customer support representatives as well. After this season, a lot of these representatives might understandably go away on a holiday as well. At that moment, FAQs alone cannot help customers with returning a product. You need to provide support through phone, email, and chat. Every technological tool at hand must be employed to help the customers and deal with their requests.
Be Vigilant About Fraudulent Returns
According to a report by APPRISS, almost 9 percent of post-holiday returns are fraudulent ones meant to dupe the company into receiving a duplicate or damaged good and returning the original amount. In a recent incident, a person was charged with duping the company of thousands of dollars; he ordered an iPhone from the company and send back duplicate phones claiming they were faulty. He sold those phones in the black market and received the amount for refunds. It is not possible for customer support representatives to maintain that level of vigilance at the ground level to be able to catch someone trying to make fraudulent returns. Still, they can be trained to be on the lookout and help the company make responsible decisions.
Publish Date: March 4, 2020 5:00 AM
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