Return to Sender: Making Package Returns Easy

Return_to_Sender_300Sometimes an item doesn’t fit. Sometimes it doesn’t match the color on a customer’s computer screen. And sometimes customers simply just change their minds.

Whatever the reason, package returns are a reality of doing business online, and with ecommerce growing like crazy, it’s critical for businesses to get serious about their package returns process.

Take this recent survey: 62% of customers returned or exchanged an item in 2013 – up 11% from 2012. What stood out most to me is that 85% of customers said they would not do repeat business with a company if the returns process is complicated or inconvenient.

So what should you do to ensure the returns process is simple and stress-free? It all starts with getting smart about your method.

Here are a few tips to help you “up” your returns game.

Showcase Your Policy
Many customers get frustrated if they can’t locate – or understand – a company’s returns policy.

So, online sellers, be sure to include a link to your returns policy on every product page. That way, your customers can inform themselves before making a purchase decision.

Most importantly, ecommerce professionals should make their returns policies clear and easy to understand.

Give a timeframe for returns, and explain whether customers will receive a full refund or store credit. Tell them about any restocking fees, and be clear about which products can and cannot be returned.

Spelling out these details – in a simple and straightforward way – can help you keep customers happy by avoiding surprises down the road.

Implement an RMA system
One of the best ways to manage an online return is by issuing a return merchandise authorization (RMA) number to products. This allows online sellers to easily authorize a refund and record the reason for returned merchandise.

RMAs also allow customers to track the status of their return, increasing visibility and peace of mind.

Finally, make sure your customers know to include the RMA number on their package and/or shipping label. This will help speed up the returns process so your customer will get credited more quickly.

Get Tech Savvy with Your Shipping Labels
One way to make the returns process more convenient and less of a time-suck is by producing return shipping labels on demand – meaning, right when the customer requests a return.

This is where having good shipping software comes in. It allows business owners to email shipping labels directly to customers immediately upon their request. It can also provide access to a webpage where customers can print their return shipping labels online. With 61% of customers wanting easy access to return labels, this is an important feature to have.

Another approach to making the returns process simple and fast is to include a return shipping label with the original package. Having this label prepped and ready to go makes it super easy for customers to return stuff they don’t want.

Ultimately, the responsibility of creating a positive and painless returns experience sits with the e-commerce business. With 95% of online customers saying they will go back to a business if they’ve had a positive returns experience, it’s important that you get busy with these tips and score that repeat business.

Amine Khechfe is the general manager and cofounder of Endicia.