How the Right Return Policy Can Give You a Leg Up on the Competition

Companies want to be known for the great style, quality and value that their products provide. But even exceptional items need to be returned sometimes.

Lady returning clothing

That’s where a return policy comes in. The ease and convenience with which customers can return an item can strongly influence whether they shop with you again or move on to your competitor. In fact, there are some companies that have become as well known for their generous, flexible and seamless return policies as they have for their products.

Here are some tips for creating a fair return policy that satisfies your customers and keeps them coming back.

Write a policy that’s easy to understand.

When customers read your policy, there should be no question in their mind as to what can and cannot be sent back. Be clear about the types of items that are accepted, the condition they must be in and what (if any) time frame they must be returned within. You should also be clear about whether you offer refunds or store credit.

Aritzia, for example, is known for its fast and free shipping and returns, and the company clearly outlines its return process on its website. Make sure your return policy is prominent on your website and in your stores, and keep the language simple and concise. Consider adding graphics to further illustrate the main points.

Offer a generous return window.

Part of the appeal of shopping online is the convenience of the process, so don’t turn that experience into a headache by giving customers an extra-tight return deadline. The same goes for brick-and-mortar stores — it might be difficult for shoppers to make a trip back quickly.

Keep in mind the fact that consumers often need time to think about their purchases. At Costco, customers have 90 days to return electronics. And Hudson’s Bay customers have between 14 and 90 days depending on the product.

Of course, it’s not always realistic for small businesses to offer an unlimited amount of time to return items, but be as flexible as you can, and check your competitors’ return policies to offer a more appealing time frame. You can even consider allowing customers to return items for store credit past the refund window—just order a batch of Square gift cards, update to the latest version of the POS app, and select ‘Add Gift Card or Swipe’ when you process a refund.

Make returns accessible.

For e-commerce items, make returning items easy for your customers by shipping orders with an adhesive return label and clear instructions about how to send items back. If you have brick-and-mortar locations, offer your online customers the option of returning the items to the store instead of shipping them for a full omnichannel shopping experience. This is a standard offering for many major retailers — like Aritzia and Hudson’s Bay, etc. — and provides an extra layer of convenience for your customers.

Make returns easy for you.

Square’s Itemized Refund feature enables you to refund individual items on a sale and then create reports on refunds in your Dashboard. If you’re using Inventory, Square automatically updates your inventory count to account for the returned item. Plus, taxes are automatically included in an itemized refund, while tips can be refunded separately.

You can still choose to issue amount-based refunds, but once an amount-based refund has been issued, you can’t issue an itemized refund on that transaction.

Get customer feedback.

Want to know how your customers feel about your return policy? Ask them. After customers complete a return, send them a short survey to find out what they did and did not like about the process and what you could have done better. Take their comments to heart and use them to inform policy changes.

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