The shopping experience can turn a loyal shopper off if the return policy is hard to negotiate
Almost every customer has returned a purchased product for a store credit, exchange or refund at least once in their lifetime. The experience is often remarkably routine. However, sometimes returns do not transpire the way they should. Let’s face it we all have a return story that made us feel undervalued as a customer. An experience shopping at even a beloved regular store can make you reconsider where you spend your money if the chain ends up having not so customer friendly return policies.
Customers will be more likely to shop in retail stores offering seamless, no questions asked return policies. For obvious reasons, practicing good customer service will enhance your bottom line. However, good customer service during the return experience is a test retailers often fail. When this occurs, customers feel deceived and their loyalty to your brand diminishes greatly. This breaking of trust can undo the retailer-customer relationship forever.
Examples of Best Brand Return Policies
Nike offers one of the best return policies. Put yourself in their customer’s shoes for a moment. If one of their most popular products, the FuelBand, breaks, you can visit any Nike store. You will be promptly greeted by a friendly sales person with iPad in hand. They will immediately scan your FuelBand so your customer profile and proof of purchase will come up on their point of sale system. No paper receipt is necessary; everything they need to know about your purchase is already electronically linked to the product being returned. After all, when you made your initial purchase, they asked if you would prefer an electronic receipt to be emailed to you and you said yes. Within minutes, the product is replaced, and you are walking out of the store a very happy and satisfied customer. No forms. No questions asked. No demands for the original paper receipt. You leave the store with a feeling of mutual trust, and are determined to repay the favor by being a forever customer of Nike.
Costco also offers an excellent return policy. Did you know if you are not satisfied even with a half-eaten, perishable product such as lettuce, you can return it, no questions asked? It would make sense to assume most customers would never take advantage of this policy using perishable items. But while some do, the average customer assumes a more conservative approach by only returning nonperishable items and consumer goods which are either defective or they are not satisfied with. Costco customers leave the store with cash in hand after a return has transpired. They are left with a feeling of mutual trust. Customer loyalty is being hardwired because of the customer friendly policy in the purchase-return-refund cycle.
Returns and Refunds: The Law
Most retailers are lenient with their return policies if a customer changes their mind or receives a gift they do not want. Why? Because it makes good business sense. However, you are not mandated to honor a return request unless if there an clear defect with the product covered by an implied warranty.
You must abide by laws governing the communication of refund and return policies. The law is on the side of your customer. If you do not abide by your advertised and written store return policy, your customer can contact the consumer protection division of their local district attorney’s office or file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.
Beware of Return Fraud
Customers can defraud a retailer when returning a product in many ways. U.S. Retailers lose between $9.6 billion and $14.8 billion annually from return fraud, according to the National Retail Federation and the Loss Prevention Research Council, as reported by Find Law. Examples of fraud include when a customer buys items for one-time use and then returns them, items are returned at the same store they were stolen at, found or stolen receipts are altered to show a higher price in order to make a profit, and price switching in which a higher-priced tag is placed on a product to receive a higher refund.
An investment should be made to make your customer return experience seamless and hassle free and to protect your business from return fraud. Invest in the security of your store with hidden non-invasive surveillance video equipment and other security measures. Also, investigate mobile cloud-based point of sale hardware and software for your retail store. Shopify offers everything you need to sell in store including a credit card processing terminal with an encrypted card reader to safely store your customer information. If in the future, they come in to return an item, their credit card will be on file and the ease of the return will be simplified.
It is also important to consider your price adjustment policy. Top retailers that abide by this policy give their customers the opportunity to have the difference in price credited to their credit card if the price of an item they purchase drops. Also, some credit card companies offer price protection for their clients who register purchases. While you may not want to publicize your price adjustment policy, have one in place and educate your sales staff to be prepared to handle such customer inquiries.
Overall, customers will be more likely to shop in retail stores that offer seamless and no questions asked return policies. For obvious reasons, practicing good customer service and customer friendly return policies will enhance your bottom line and build consumer trust and confidence in your brand.