How to Best Handle Holiday Returns

Dec 23, 2011 10:00 PM  By

Returns are “part of our value proposition,” says Chris Smith, vice president of ecommerce and catalog for Jockey International. “We offer free returns part of our ‘Satisfaction guaranteed since 1876 that is on every package we sell. So for us, the holiday returns strategy actually starts early in the selling season.”

With that in mind, Smith offers some tips about how to best handle holiday returns:

Let your customers know your return policy upfront: “We market it as “risk-free gifting” on all of our communications. We offer a downloadable, pre-paid returns label on our site.”

Leverage customer care as part of the returns process and turn lemons into lemonade. “Our contact center is well versed in not only making the return go smoothly, but helpful in the areas of product exchanges and replacements as well,” Smith says.

Staff fulfillment center returns processing appropriately.

Develop service level metrics around returns much in the same way you have them for order processing. “Knowing key returns peaks and staffing correctly allows for quick processing of returns goods.

Prevent returns from happening.

Develop a gift card business that minimizes returns since the recipient can choose preferences.

Smith says Jockey International bases staffing around sales volume and known return rates.

“Since we have had many seasons of learning about the levels to stay within the service level metrics, it becomes a math problem based on increased sales volume,” Smith explains. “Our store staff is well versed in not only handling online returns, but standing behind any Jockey product purchased no matter where the purchase originated.”

What’s more, Jockey’s store staff has access to the Jockey.com inventory in store to facilitate a customer request that may be current out of stock in that particular location.

Smith says if a customer has doubts, “use the gift card to execute the gift and let the recipient choose. We have been running e-gift cards for two seasons now which help also to extend our online selling season from shipping cutoffs right to Christmas Day. The giver has the option of choosing the gift card design and it is delivered via email to the recipient immediately.”

Nancy Sears, customer service manager for bedding merchant Cuddledown, says her company provides customers with a return label in every box shipped.

If the customer is returning for exchange, she says, “the use of the label is free – plus we offer free standard shipping on the exchange order going back out to the customer. Free shipping both ways – makes ordering by mail and exchanging by mail easier and takes the worry out of what if I don’t like it.”

Sears says Cuddledown charges a $9.50 fee for use of the label if returning for credit. The label is prepaid and the amount comes out of the refund/credit amount.

Customers can call Cuddledown and execute an expedited exchange, Sears says, whereby “we will send out the item/s and only charge the customers for the items. Shipping is free when the customer returns the unwanted items and a credit is processed to their credit card.”

Staffing is geared up in the warehouse for returns, Sears says, and Cuddledown has a customer service person dedicated to handling problem/complicated returns, which is a year-round full time position.

If we are running a backlog and the customer has the tracking information, Sears says, “once we verify that we have received the product back, we will go ahead and process the exchange or credit even though the return has not actually been processed by returns.”

Sears says this process is handled by customer service and all reps have the knowledge to process a return in this manner. A note is then made on the customer’s account alerting the returns department the return has already been processed by us. The return is then processed as a zero dollar return for inventory purposes.

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.