How to Create and Implement a Return Policy That Keeps Customers Happy

How to Create and Implement a Return Policy That Keeps Customers Happy

Do you think your return policy impacts your sales? Ninety-one percent of consumers say a store’s return policy does impact their purchase decisions.

In addition, research suggests that a growing number of customers want a hassle-free return policy. Big box stores like Walmart and Best Buy said their restrictive policies were the source of customer complaints and lost sales, which prompted both stores to lighten their restrictions. So, how’s your return policy? Are customers happy with it?

Businesses have to strike a balance with a fair return policy that doesn’t hinder sales, but at the same time, doesn’t allow for abuse either. Here’s a look at four things to consider when creating and revising your return policy, and a list of best practices to make sure the return process bolsters your customer service ratings rather than hinders them.

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4 return policy considerations

  • Time limit

Determine how many days customers have to return an item. A ninety-day return policy is standard, but some stores are eliminating time limits altogether. Stores like L.L.Bean allow customers to return items whenever they see fit.

If that’s something you decide to do, make sure you market that aspect of your return policy to show customers how dedicated you are to their satisfaction.

  • Receipt requirements

Big box stores can get away with no-receipt returns, but smaller businesses could see an increase in fraudulent returns. The National Retail Federation reports that more than 13% of returns made without receipts are fraudulent, and small businesses may be at even greater risk due to their decreased security.

It’s probably best for small businesses to require a receipt for a return, but if you want to relax this rule, consider only allowing in-store credit for returns without a receipt.

  • Exceptions

Every return policy has exceptions. Perhaps you won’t offer returns on “as-is” or red-tag clearance items. Maybe makeup can only be returned unopened, and electronics that are opened can only be returned to the manufacturer.

If you have specific rules like this, make sure they’re clearly spelled out on your return policy so there’s no confusion later on.

  • Dealing with “wardrobing”

Have you heard of “wardrobing?” It’s when a customer buys an outfit with the intent to wear it once, usually to a big event, and return it later. The National Retail Federation says 72% of retailers have experienced “wardrobing.”

To protect your store, you may want to only accept returns on clothes that show no signs of wear.

Best practices for returns

  • Post your policy

A return policy shouldn’t be a secret. You want customers to have access to it, so make sure it’s on your website, posted in your store or even printed on the back of receipts.

  • Educate your employees

Educate your employees on every detail so there’s zero room for misunderstanding. You may even want your employees to give customers a brief summary of your return policy when handing them the receipt. Even something as simple as, “You have 45 days to return items to the store” can help decrease issues down the road.

  • Make returns a positive customer experience

Train your staff to ask why the customer is returning an item—but in a light, nonjudgmental tone. Teach your employees how to encourage exchanges instead of refunds. Can they offer a different color or size? Was the item being returned just a poor gift choice that could easily be exchanged for something the customer loves?

  • Don’t make the process time consuming

A return shouldn’t take any more time than a purchase. You don’t want customers to see a return as a punishment, so make sure the process is quick. During the holidays, it’s a good idea to keep extra staff on hand to deal with an influx of returns in a timely fashion.

  • Give customers the benefit of the doubt

When you can, be lenient with returns. It’s often better to make a swift return to keep customer service standards high than it is to take a stand. That said, there may come a time when a customer is blatantly trying to abuse the system. In that case, an employee should notify a manager to handle the situation.

Have you reviewed your return policy recently? If so, what changes did you make and why? What aspects of your policy are you most strict on? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Lisa Furgison
About the Author
Lisa Furgison

Lisa is a writer at Fivestars, a freelance journalist, and co-owner of a media company, McEwen's Media.

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