Customer experience - essential element of returns management

Online retailers, look here! 

Studies show that customers who experience friction when they want to make a return are less likely to shop again with your retail outlet in the future. 

In other words, consumers expect a customer-centric experience throughout the retail journey - both in terms of purchasing and return. This starts from when the interest in your products is aroused via the purchase, to when the product is delivered, and the decision whether to retain, exchange, return or claim a refund. 

In general, the return is often seen as a 'necessary evil' and lost business, even though the return has all the potential to be what makes you stand out and attract new customers. Despite this, a return is mostly treated as an afterthought, where the process is complicated, difficult to understand, or otherwise seen as fraught with friction, where the customer can easily be faced with an information vacuum. 

However, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce (or eliminate) these risks, and here is how.

In this blog: 

  1. Examine the entire flow from start to finish
  2. View a return as e-commerce – but in reverse
  3. Treat the consumer equally as well for returns, exchanges, and refund claims as for a purchase:
  4. How does nShift Return help retailers improve the customer experience?

 

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1. Examine the entire flow from start to finish 

It's important to start at square one before starting to work on a return.  

Step one is to make an inventory, with the help of representatives from each department with a link to the return process. For example, this could include customer service, warehousing/logistics, accounts, online/platform, etc. You need to review the entire experience and the data flow before making any decisions. 

Make sure that you examine the flow for cancellations, exchanges, refund claims, and "edge cases", for example. Ultimately, it is very important that you offer a return experience on par with the shopping experience the consumer encounters in your webshop, and in different markets.  

 

2. View a return as e-commerce – but in reverse 

Sometimes a return is something delegated to a specific department. Which department this is may depend on the internal process at each individual business. But the fact is that a return ultimately affects the whole business. Not just parts of it. 

 Just as with a purchase, a return is a flow consisting of several parts:  

  • Customer support 
    Support online (via a digital platform) and/or offline (in-store), in which the consumer registers the return, or claims a refund or exchange. 
  • Logistics 
    A logistics exercise in which the consumer needs to send back the product. 
  • Customer service cases 
    A customer service case is often for follow-up on a return case or to get help. 
  • Inventory management 
    Managing the inventory and checking the product, as well as re-entry into the stock balance. 
  • Transaction and bookkeeping 
    A transaction in which the product is converted into money, or becomes an exchange product. The replacement/refund of the product shall also be recorded. 
  • Follow-up 
    A follow-up to the consumer. Keeping the consumer updated builds loyalty while reducing the number of cases for customer service.  

 

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3. Treat the consumer equally as well for returns, exchanges, and refund claims as for a purchase 

Decide who will be Return Manager 

Unfortunately, the issue of returns at many online retailers ends up in the lap of the person or department that experiences most problems with returns. Not necessarily based on who is most qualified to deal with the issue. 

But without a complete understanding of how other departments and personnel are affected by a return, and without authority, it is difficult to make changes. Ultimately, it is also difficult to offer customers a good post-purchase experience. 

Therefore, it is very important to appoint a representative at the company who will own the return issue and then take on the role of return manager. The person in question may belong to customer service, e-commerce, logistics, accounts, or another department.  

 

READ MORE: 5 tips on how a Holiday Return process protects January revenues  

 

Find the key to frictionless exchanges 

One of the most common reasons for a return, such as in fashion, is that the product is the wrong color or size. Through simple steps you can create a frictionless return process and allow the consumer to make an exchange for the right product/size/color. 

By allowing consumers to exchange products without the need to involve customer service for automatic notifications and faster refunds, you can offer a frictionless return process that contributes to increased customer loyalty. You can easily achieve this by digitalizing and automating the many underlying processes.  

 

Provide a digital return process 

A digitalized return process helps the consumer to easily register a return on a cell phone, laptop, or tablet in a few simple clicks. In exchange, your organization avoids having to process a handwritten return slip. 

The digital process helps you to guide the consumer to make the 'right choice'. This leads to fewer queries, faster processing, and the opportunity to communicate with the consumer throughout the process, precisely when it is needed. 

 

READ MORE: 9 returns management trends for 2022

 

Keep the consumer updated 

In the same way that consumers want to know that an order has been dispatched and the date the parcel is expected to arrive, they will also prefer to receive a confirmation that a return has been registered, received, and processed.  

Holding a transparent dialog, and being able to provide an estimate as to when the replacement will be sent or a refund given, contributes to a better customer experience and fewer queries to customer service. 

  

Make it hard to make mistakes 

Communication with consumers about a return, a refund claim or an exchange currently follows one particular static model: a static return page on the website, with all the conditions listed one after the other, followed by different rules and costs, and even links to files in some cases. Sometimes further information also follows, based on the market in which the consumer is located.  

This makes it difficult for new visitors to an e-commerce site to understand how easy/hard it is to make a return. 

Statistics show that 45 percent of online shoppers consider the return policy to be of great importance when making a purchase. 68 percent of all consumers read the existing return policy before making a purchase. 

There is a great risk of losing online shoppers before they have started to browse through the product catalog, for the simple reason that the existing return policy is complicated to understand, and perceived as bothersome. 

Structure and summarize the information. Provide a dynamic return process that is personalized and easy to understand.  

 

Return-Consumer 

How can nShift Return help retailers improve the customer experience? 

Create customer-focused return experiences 

  1. Brand customized 
    The whole flow is tailored according to brand and the return page is linked into your webshop so that consumers never notice when they leave your website.
     
  2. The right language for the right customer 
    The nShift Return platform is native in several languages so that your customers can go through the whole return experience in the right language. 

  3. Minimal administration 
    No data need to be entered; nShift Return knows where the refund and any exchanges should be shipped to via smart API integrations with other systems. 

 

How to marry returns management to the customer experience

  • A personalized return flow 
    Each return is unique. Each market is unique. Each customer is unique. As an online retailer, you use nShift Return to tailor the return flow according to each product, market, return option, and business rule. The result is a return process that is intuitive and personal. 

  • Continuous notifications to the customer 
    The consumer is notified continuously throughout the return process: from dropping off at the post office/home collection, to final processing in the warehouse and refund. = Less uncertainty and fewer queries to customer service. 

  • Better overview = faster decisions 
    nShift Return collects all relevant information from your e-commerce platform, shipping provider, and WMS in order to provide customer service with a quick overview and the tools to handle each unique return. 

  • Automated decision-making 
    Most return decisions are automated through intelligent business rules, which means that return management takes place more quickly with reduced risk. In turn, this leads to a better customer experience and higher profitability. 

 


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