I once read about a Zappos customer who had ordered clothes for a relative’s wedding. And I might not be telling this story exactly as it happened but this is the general gist of it. The delivery guy who dropped off the order didn’t meet the customer around, so in a very clumsy move, he left the order at the door. Before the customer got home to pick up the order waiting for him, it rained and the items got damaged.
Soon enough, a Zappos customer support employee got a very angry customer calling and cursing. And understandably so too. But the one thing I admire about Zappos is their unending drive to deliver great customer service. The employee got the general gist of the man’s plight. And the annoying part for this customer was the fact that he didn’t know his size so he had ordered it early to have it mended to suit him. Now the wedding was only a few days away and he was in deep poop.
The employee apologized and resent his order to him, with a free upgrade to overnight delivery. And the delightful part of this story, is that the employee sent different sizes of the same product, so the customer could select his best fit, significantly reducing the need to have them mended, and send all the rest back.
That’s an example of going above and beyond for the customer. And while Zappos might be an exception with a truly shocking 365 day return policy, every business needs to look for ways to ensure customers feel safe when they shop with you. And one major way is through your refund and return policies.
Here are a few best practices to follow when structuring yours
Make your returns policy easy to find
Perhaps one of the biggest faults in Nigerian ecommerce websites is the fact that you don’t find their return policies easily. And for the few that do try to put it out up front, there are flaws in the execution that don’t really help. Lets take a look at a few examples from websites you know
Konga.com: The Konga return policy is quite visible on the shipping details tab. The only problem here however is that the icon isn’t clickable. Because there are more details on the policy in a different page but the customer doesn’t get to see it. Not until they check for the return policy link at the bottom of the page.
Payporte.com: Here’s an excerpt from the Payporte website from their returns policy page “White apparels, Swimwear, underwear, sex toys, earrings/ accessories and cosmetics/beauty products (including perfumes & Fragrances) cannot be returned or exchanged.”. Now lets look at the details page on a bra. ANY customer that gets to this page without looking into the refund policy (and almost no one would) will assume they can return this item.
Use plain English, not technical jargon
Good thing is that you’re probably a customer reading this too. Ever got in touch with technical support about something and the dude on the other end of the line is just trying to throw you off balance with terms and acronyms? It’s just as bad when you spell out your refund policy in words people don’t get. And sometimes it’s just so obvious its worrying. Take a look at Jumia’s policy summary for example
I mean, who can make sense of this please? What’s the grand idea? Feels like we’re back in school all over again and I’m trying to steal the multiplication table answers off the back of my school book.
Compare that to the returns policy on a website called Lovehoney
Difference is clear as day. And after reading a refund policy like this, truth is that you smile a little and you gain just a little more confidence in the brand. Your customers are human too, not little witches trying to steal from you. Be nice to them, speak their language
Try to subsidize your return fees
This one is a little tricky, especially because even the big guns haven’t led in the right direction. And understandably, logistics in Nigeria is a little cumbersome. But just before you go ahead to behead me for suggesting such a thing, lets think about a business case for this.
Assume you’re a small business, not like Konga or Jumia. Assume that you have about 10,000 customers on your ecommerce website where you sell female shoes. And 8,000 of these customers live in Lagos. Typically, ecommerce thrives on repeat business and Word Of Mouth marketing, so these 8k customers will talk to their friends (in Lagos) about your website.
Even though these guys had friends refer them, they’d still have trust issues using you. What if they come to your website and see that to return an item they don’t like to you is just N300 (or free if you can afford it). Especially for the – now growing – customers who don’t mind paying with their card.
Again, a few of you are still killing me, but this doesn’t have to be an absolute disaster. Get data driven about the results, for one month, put it out there on every page that returns cost so little or nothing, see if it affects your order rates and make a business decision. Risky yeah? Yes. But if it does boost confidence and boost sales, you win!
Indicate time frame limitations for returns
Not everyone can be like Zappos or Lovehoney. Actually, I’m not sure if it’ll work in Nigeria, it might, but it’ll be a stretch. Either way, you need to let customers know how long they can wait to return these products. If they don’t know upfront, and they miss the deadline, you’d have an angry human knocking at your door soon. Konga and Payporte, along with a few other websites, do this well.
Let customers know if they can exchange for credit or cash
Some stores let you get cash refunds when you return an item. Some insist on exchanging it for another product. And others give you store credits.
I had an experience on DealDey once on the same thing, made an order that wasn’t able to be fulfilled. And even thought I explicitly mentioned it that I wanted the money back in my account, I got a follow up mail saying I had been given store credits. Is that a bad approach? Most likely yes. But the real problem is in the fact that I had no idea they wouldn’t want to give me cash back. On another day, in another situation, that could have led to a whole new story.
Be sure to let your customers know if you give them cash in exchange for returned items, or if they just get store credits or another product.
Provide enough product information
Although a lot of what we have addressed have talked about how to deal with returns, there’s one way to prevent it. Provide all the right information the customer needs to make a decision. This will include things like the product description, title, color information, technical specification, product images… All of these things could easily mislead the customer into ordering for something they don’e want.
This is especially true if you run a third party seller type store, or if you use drop shipping, you need to be sure that merchants provide as much correct information as possible.
Lastly, be human. In some cases, before a customer returns an item, they call your store up to make clarifications. If you or your staff are polite and human enough, they just might make do with what they received. Or in some cases, they realize they made the mistake and they don’t need to return the item.
Keep these things in mind as you plan for your returns/refund strategy.
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