Woman restocking purse

Restocking merchandise is part of the price for flexible returns. On the flip side, making returns a pleasant experience for the shopper translates to loyal customers who purchase more often.

The holiday shopping season is complete. Naturally, that means the holiday gift returning season has just gotten underway.

Just how busy is the shopping period after Christmas? The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, last month released the results of a survey it conducted along with Proper Insights & Analytics that found that 68 percent of shoppers said they’d likely continue shopping the week after Christmas (December 26 through January 1). Among those surveyed, younger consumers (those 18-34 years of age) were the most likely to shop that week.

More than half of the shoppers in survey (55 percent) said they plan to return or exchange unwanted gifts within the first month of receiving them. And, the vast majority (80 percent) said they prefer to make returns in person at a store. And,74 percent of those people said they will likely purchase something else while returning their gift.

So what does this mean? It means there will still be plenty of transacting even after the holiday period. More importantly, consumers expect a pleasant return experience or they might not come back to buy anything else.

A survey of 1,800 online fashion consumers by Happy Returns, a technology and logistics company, found that more than 87 percent of shoppers won’t buy again from brands after a bad returns experience.

Let that sink in a moment: almost 90 percent of shoppers say they will not return to buy anything ever again from a brand after a bad return experience.

Of course, returns can be costly to a small business owner. No one likes to get stuck with items they can’t resell. And, the credit card merchant processing fees are often lost.

But, shoppers who return merchandise frequently are “more loyal, spend more money and shop more often,” according to Happy Returns. For that reason, it’s worthwhile to make returns simple and customer-friendly.

What are some things you can do to make returning merchandise a pleasant experience?

  1. Train everyone on you staff to be able to handle returns. No one likes to come into a store and wait around for the right employee to be able to handle a return.
  2. Make sure your point of sale system is set up so that you can easily handle a return. It should be an easy, quick process.
  3. Don’t ask too many questions. No one likes to be needled with endless questions about the product or why it’s being returned. It’s fine to ask the customer why they decided to return something but don’t go on and on.
  4. Stay calm. Not everyone is nice when they return something. Sometimes, the customer might be upset and annoyed. Regardless of their demeanor, it’s important to stay in customer service mode and perform the return transaction without becoming emotional.

How flexible should the return policy be? In general, it’s probably a good idea to stay consistent with whatever your competitors do. The last thing you want is for a customer to say they’re switching to a competitor because of the return policy. Many businesses will have some limit though. It might be that the merchandise can’t be returned more than 90 days after purchase or that they require a receipt with certain goods.

Having said all that, it’s probably wise to make exceptions if you think the customer satisfaction is worthwhile. Take things on a case by case basis.

If you do have exceptions or items that can’t be returned, it’s generally a good idea to state that condition of the sale at the time of the sale (at the point of sale terminal) and have it posted somewhere within the store. In those cases, customers are generally amenable to such policies.

Want to learn how a point of sale system can help with returns and improve customer service? Contact us today for a demonstration.