How good (or bad) is your returns policy?

Your returns policy may be the last contact a customer has with you. And the last contact with a customer is how they remember you. And you want them to remember you for all the right reasons. If a customer buys from you and then has to make a return, make this experience as easy and as streamlined as you possibly can.

The returns experience can dictate whether your customer will buy from you again in the future or not.

I was an avid fan of two separate companies. Over the years I must have spent thousands with them. But no more. And it was all down to their returns policy and the stress this caused.

Both companies went out of their way to make the process as long and arduous as possible. Both companies failed to refund monies owed for a whole 4 weeks!!!

The first company, when I queried when I would get my money refunded quite simply ignored me. So much to the point that I took to social media to call them out and ask why they wouldn’t answer my emails. Their response? They blocked me!!!!

This was like pouring fuel on the fire! I was livid! I wrote to their head office and reported them to trading standards. I got my money back and a pathetic email saying there were delays with refunds. Not good enough. Even though I love their clothes, I will never in a million years buy from them again.

The second company were almost as bad. After returning a rather expensive item, I didn’t get my refund. I phoned and was told they hadn’t received the parcel. Luckily for me, I had paid for the return to be tracked. When I informed them of this, they said I would have to prove it! I duly copied the tracking and sent it to them. They responded and admitted they had received the parcel but only on that day that I had phoned. I could prove this was not the case and pointed out the tracking clearly showed they had the parcel a week ago and at which point they became rather hostile.

It took another 2 weeks for my refund to come through and my emails asking what was happening were ignored. The sad thing is that they had other items I wanted to order but after this awful experience, again, I will never order from them again.

Why companies do this is beyond me. They need to take a leaf out of another companies book that takes a completely different look at the refund process.

This was a company that I had reason to return an item. Firstly, I had the refund within 48 hours! Secondly, they sent me a note to say it made them sad they hadn’t been able to provide me with something I wanted to keep this time around, but come back, order again and they would give me priority delivery for free as a thank you.

What a difference!

I instantly fell in love with this company. I wanted to do business with them again and buy from them. They made me feel valued and that they genuinely wanted my custom.

Why returns can be good for business

At every stage of the buying process, make the effort to impress your customers, not to leave them feeling cheated and uncared for.

No, of course, you don’t want returns coming back to you but it’s far better to allow customers to make returns in the easiest way possible. If they feel your returns process is too difficult, they may hang on to an item they don’t really want and guess what, this will stop them from buying from you again as research has shown.

However, if you make the returns process easy, customers will feel confident in the knowledge they can get their money back if they receive something they don’t love and are more likely to place larger orders because of this. And they are more likely to keep these items that they wouldn’t have otherwise ordered meaning increased sales for you.

So even though you may lose money on the initial purchase, you have a higher chance of recouping those costs in the future.

What does your return policy look like?

Take a hard look at your returns process from a customer point of view.

  • Does the customer have to pay for the return, or do you cover the cost of this? Yes, there will be a cost to you if you cover the return fee but it can create extra orders for you upfront. Many customers check out the returns policy before buying and won’t even place an order if they have to pay for the return.
  • How long does it take for you to refund the money to the customer? Don’t play delay tactics here. Make it clear how long it will take for the customer to get their money back. Make it as quick as you can to build trust and confidence.
  • Do you offer an exchange service for an alternative item? Look for an opportunity to encourage the customer to receive another item for their money rather than a monetary refund. If you don’t offer free returns, consider offering free shipping on exchanges.
  • What else do you do? If like most companies, I suspect nothing. How about using the example above to turn it into a pleasant experience for the customer and another sales opportunity for you?

Examples of a good and bad returns policy

Who wouldn’t feel confident ordering from Lakeland with an incredible 3-year guarantee!!

Lakeland logo
Lakeland returns policy

On the other hand, Next, even though technically Next give the required 28 days to return an item, they state you must inform them you wish to make a return within 14 days! Legally ok but sneaky perhaps? They also make a charge for a return.

Do you have any experiences of a return that is particularly good or bad? Share below in the comments.