Designing an effective return policy is one of the most essential parts of your business strategy. If you have a policy with many loopholes, it could potentially cost you a significant amount of money.
What is a return policy?
A return policy is a document that outlines your business’s process and requirements for accepting returns from customers. It covers how customers should request a return and what they should expect from the process.
Having this is crucial because it helps protect your business from buyers who abuse the system of returning items. A return policy allows both you and your customers to follow a well-laid out and consistent process.
How to Write an Excellent Return Policy
When writing your policy, you want to make sure that you offer the best customer service experience from beginning to end. This starts when a buyer wants to return an item by ensuring that they know your policy and process. You also want to make sure you live up to your promises and that everyone is satisfied.
An excellent policy should be well-balanced for both you and your customer. It should satisfy your business and ensure that customers are not taking advantage of you. It should also keep the buyer as satisfied as possible and ensure that new and loyal customers are coming back to your store.
Below are some of the best practices to keep in mind when writing a great return policy that is effective and satisfying to everyone involved.
1. Understand Your Return Policy Beforehand
When you start thinking about what you want to put in your return policy, don’t think about the money lost right away. The return on investment is way more than the lost value of returned products.
Having a policy that is easy to understand and use will bring more value to your company. An effective return policy will bring in sales because by interacting with customers returning products, you can gain valuable insight into what customers are looking for. You can ask the customer why they are returning the product, what they are looking for in the future etc.
In 2017, Narvar, a post-purchase experience platform, discovered that out of the 60% of online shoppers that make at least one return or exchange per year, almost all of them (95%) would make another purchase with the same online store if their initial customer service and return experience was a good and comfortable experience for them.
Understanding your return policy and hearing customers feedback on their return process will be useful to your business. You can take that feedback and tweak anything that may be difficult to understand.
2. Never copy and paste a policy
This tip does not only pertain to writing a return policy but almost everything on your site (most notably, product descriptions). One return policy is not useful for all scenarios or businesses. You don’t want to have a return policy highlighting what to do when returning electronics when you sell clothes and jewelry. It would help if you always personalized it to meet your business needs and the target audience.
This page should instill confidence in your customers when they are returning a product. It would help if you always tailor your policy to your customers.
If possible, also make this page a testimonial for your customers looking into returning a product. Include customer reviews of their personal experiences to give potential customers a feel of what they will be experiencing. Of course, not every customer experience is the same, but hearing from other customers may ease somebody else’s worries.
Personalizing a return policy allows customers to see that you are taking this process seriously and want the best experience for your customer.
3. Make Sure to Keep the Language Simple
One guideline to keep in mind when writing your return policy is to write the way you talk. Write it as if you are sitting in front of your target audience and having a conversation. You don’t want your customers to hunt down a dictionary when they are reading your policy.
When your policy contains lots of complicated vocabulary, this will not only confuse your customer, but it will also deter them from shopping with your store again. If they return to your store and need to make another return, they may not want to go through the hassle again.
Don’t be afraid to add some personality to your policy as well. As long as you are using vocabulary, your readers will understand, make it something your customers can identify with.
It shouldn’t take your customer more than a few minutes to understand your return policy. Make sure to keep the sentences short and to the point. When you use words that are easy to understand, it’s easier for your customers to understand them.
You also want to avoid language that may scare customers from purchasing the first place. Avoid using phrases such as “you must” or “you are required.” This may sound like you are trying to deter them from making a return.
Use simple language and make it as engaging to your customer as you can. You don’t want them to abandon your site. Using simple language in a clear way can decrease the chances of that happening.
4. Give Customers Time to Request a Return
When writing your policy, ask yourself, what is the period of time that you want to give buyers to request a return? Make sure that it is a reasonable time frame that benefits both parties involved.
On the one hand, you don’t want to have a return policy with no time limit. Otherwise, you run the risk of having customers trying to return products years later. On the other hand, you don’t want to have a time limit that doesn’t give customers any reasonable time.
Don’t create a time frame that rushes the customer when making a return, such as seven days or no return policy at all. This can deter them from wanting to deal with your business. Not rushing a customer and giving them a reasonable amount of time can make customers feel more at ease when purchasing your product.
Make sure to tell your customers near the beginning of the policy the time frame they have for returning a product. 15-30 days is the standard return time-frame. But, some businesses have a longer time frame for returns of 90 days. Anything after 90 days is not going to benefit your company. By this point, customers have possibly used the product. This runs the risk of getting broken products returned.
There are certain instances when extended return policies are reasonable, such as during the holidays and gift returns.
For example, if a customer buys a gift at the beginning of December for their friend for Christmas, and it is defective, the friend won’t know that until after Christmas. By this point, the refund period will have passed. If there is no extended return period, the friend will have to keep a gift that doesn’t work. It’s not feasible to ask people who buy gifts to test the presents before giving them out.
For this purpose, it is useful to extend your return period to a date in January, such as the 15th. That way, if a gift recipient receives their gift on Christmas Day, they have 21 days to return the item. This way, gift-givers can shop early, without the fear that the recipient won’t return their gift.
By failing to detail a time-frame for returns, customers will try and ship back items months or years later. Having open-ended return periods may be pleasing for customers, but it won’t do your business any good in the long run.
5. Does the Policy Make Sense to You?
One thing to ask yourself after you have written a return policy that you think is effective and easy for your customers to understand you have to ask yourself, does the policy make sense to you?
Are you offering a 100% customer satisfaction guaranteed when you first launch your site without ever having anybody test your product or services? Not all companies can deliver that right off the bat. That isn’t something you should be offering when you first create a return policy. Even if you believe that you will satisfy every customer, you want to wait until you get a feel of what other people are saying about your products. Otherwise, you will have plenty of unsatisfied customers who can prove that your product is not 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
You should also consider certain items, such as sale items. Are all sale items final sale? What if a customer likes the product, but it is the wrong size? Instead of returning the item altogether, offer an exchange on the product.
Always remember that your policy isn’t set in stone. As your business grows, you can always change certain things in your policy that may not work or doesn’t seem feasible anymore.
You could offer a promotion with free returns for a limited time of one month and see what customers say about the products. This ensures that you get a feel of how your customers like the product. Or, if you have plenty of returns during that time frame, you can interact with customers and see what they don’t like about the product and why they returned it. This also gives you the chance to provide excellent customer service and build strong relationships with customers.
The goal is to make a return policy that allows you to satisfy unhappy customers and reduce the risk of negative reviews. Would you be comfortable making a purchase if the company you were buying from had your return policy?
Keep in mind that if you do change your policy, that you honor what your return policy looked like when a buyer made the purchase. You want to ensure that buyers have positive experiences, and if you don’t honor the policy set out when the purchase went through, you run the risk of losing the customer trust you have.
6. Always Stipulate Products Conditions Upon Returns
If there are requirements for the condition of returned products, you should highlight them early.
If you need the merchandise sent back in its original packaging and unopened, you have to let your customer know that. On the other hand, if they open the product and it is defective, you must have a back-up plan for people to return items in that condition.
Whatever the conditions are, you should showcase them clearly so that customers don’t miss them.
While it is good to list return requirements clearly so that customers know what to make sure of before making a return, do not make the list of requirements so unreasonable that it is impossible to make a return. You want a friendly return policy that clearly stipulates the guidelines to follow when returning products.
You may have people who try to return broken items and items that are not suitable for a return. That is why when you are crafting your return policy; you should state the condition the product must be in when returned. If this information isn’t included, customers will attempt to return items that are in poor condition. But, because your return policy didn’t state the returned product’s condition, you would have to take the loss on that product.
Stipulating the condition of returns to buyers ensures that they know the expectations of the condition of products. It also ensures that you are not suffering great losses from the abuse of a poorly written return policy.
Other Things to Remember
Keep in mind that you know your business best. You know how your return policy should look and what will make it appealing to returning and future customers. You know the condition of returns and the time frame that is most reasonable for your customer. Always remember that the returns process should be hassle-free.
Just make sure that when you are putting the finishing touches on that, it should make sense to both you and the customer. It shouldn’t leave them with any doubts about their return, and it should alleviate any concerns that the customer may have.
The key to a successful return policy is ensuring that it will benefit both your business and the customer, leaving everyone happy.