How To Make Your Customer Returns Process More Efficient

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Dealing with customer returns is an inevitable part of retail. There are measures you can take to reduce returns, but you also need to know how to manage the returns you do get. In order to keep your costs down and give a great customer experience at the same time, you need to make your returns process more efficient.

According to research by Barclaycard, 30% of shoppers deliberately order more items with the intent to return unwanted items. They found that this consumer behaviour for returning unwanted goods negatively affects 60% of retailers.

Processing returns is a headache for retail businesses. While you can’t eliminate returns, you can create a more efficient returns process. Our following pointers will help you create more efficiencies and improve customer experience.

Let’s look at how you can create a more efficient returns process for your business.

Have a clear returns policy in place

Having a clear and concise returns policy will help customers understand what they need to do when returning items. You might think the best way to curb returns is to make it as inaccessible for people as possible; charges, postage, printing their own returns label etc. Stay away from tactics like this. Customers are more loyal and spend higher amounts on average with retailers that offer flexible, easy and free returns.

With a flexible and easy to understand returns policy, you’ll attract more sales and increase average order value. Less customer support will be needed for those wanting to query your returns because your policy will explain everything they need to know – saving you valuable time and resources.

You’ll want to include important information on return options. What are the options for returning to stores if purchased online? Do you work with delivery providers to pick up items for return directly from customers? Answer these questions in your policy and create a more efficient returns process for customers to follow.

Efficiencies in your inventory management

Good inventory management underpins an efficient returns process. Customer returns affect inventory systems from physical inventory, digital inventory and accounting systems which in turn impact your store and website. Handheld scanners help identify products and deal with them accordingly. Scanning barcodes results in fewer errors than keying in numbers by hand and will benefit your returns process greatly.

With this technology, you get a real time view of your customer returns and inventory levels with a system and handhelds that work together. The ability to identify and reallocate stock into your store and warehouse is extremely beneficial for both you and the customer. The quicker you’re able to process the return, especially for those returning via post, the customer will receive their refund quicker and have a better experience. For you, it’s a shorter time scale to getting your product back into stock.

As with any technology it's important that it is effectively managed to prolong its lifecycle. Timly's IT Asset Management white paper provides free insight into the importance of IT asset management.

International returns

If you sell internationally, you’ll already be aware of the number of things you have to think about and consider. Making your international returns as efficient as possible plays a key part in your internationalisation.

Save money and time by reselling returned goods locally. If you sell overseas and a customer wants to return the item to you, it can be costly to you and the customer (depending on your returns policy). To overcome this, you can discuss returns management with third-party providers and warehousing abroad to hold and reship items from there to new customers, re-selling the item locally.

Organise your work areas

Create well-organised workspaces for your team so they can process returns quickly and efficiently. Ensure your team is fully trained on how to handle returns from how to use handheld scanners and the systems powering your operation, to stock location and warehouse management.

Make your returns policy available to all staff members – there’s nothing worse than conflicting information for customers. By knowing the policy inside out, your team can make the right decisions when it comes to processing returns efficiently, making the experience seamless for customers.

Give a great customer experience

This brings us to giving your customers a great experience. The chances are they don’t want to be returning an item – they bought it for a reason. Use this opportunity to delight them and secure repeat business through an efficient returns process for your business.

Get rid of any obstacles in your returns policy, give your customers plenty of options when it comes to how they can return items. This includes various channels like in-store, via the post, courier pick up or lockers – whilst offering free returns. Prompt communication with your customers throughout the returns process too with text updates at each step so they know what is happening at all times.

Managing returns fraud and misuse

Unfortunately, there will be some people who misuse your returns policy. Returns fraud is a very real threat and can be a costly one for retailers to manage. It happens across brick and mortar, and eCommerce and can include things like returning stolen merchandise or falsifying receipts. There is also a growing trend of wardrobing, where customers wear fashion items and return the goods afterwards. This is really common in fast fashion.

So, how can you curb this kind of consumer behaviour without tightening your policy up too much and still maintaining an efficient returns process?

  • Train staff who will be processing returns, whether in-store or in warehouses, on what to look for in fraudulent returns. Put in place how this should be managed in accordance with your company policies.
  • Always require proof of purchase, such as a receipt or shipping invoice, from customers returning items.
  • Use anti-tamper tags that can be removed at home and not reattached. A lot of tags are easy to reattach after wearing, or hidden, whereas anti-tamper tags are typically more obviously positioned to prevent wardrobing.
  • Consider implementing a restocking fee for high-value items like TVs or high-end fashions. Of course, this wouldn’t be applicable for damaged and faulty goods.
  • Naturally, you don’t want to create too many roadblocks for genuine returns so make sure you cover all points like the above in your returns policy so people can see this information before purchasing.

Final thoughts

There is a lot to think about when it comes to improving the efficiency of your returns process, let alone managing this all across multiple systems. If you’re interested in finding out more about managing your entire retail operation through a single platform, get in touch with the Venditan team.

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