All e-commerce businesses hate returns, but they are and will always be part of the entire supply chain. Customers have the right to return items that they are not satisfied with as long as the reason is valid. Hence, businesses must ensure that their reverse logistics systems are kept up to par to deal with returns in the best way possible for both their business and their customers.
Achieving an efficient reverse logistics system is often more complex than it seems. There are a lot of factors that come into play, and with that comes a lot of room for errors. To mitigate the common problems in reverse logistics or the returns process as a whole, it makes sense to first take a look at what customers hate the most about returning items:
1. An unclear policy
At the very least, a business’ return policy must include clear, concise instructions on how customers can return an item and the valid reasons for returning it, as well as how long they have to return it and what documentation is required of them. When customers can’t easily understand a return policy, they will likely be even more dissatisfied with the business and less willing to buy from it again, if ever at all.
A return policy should be written in easy-to-understand language. Everything on it should be straight to the point and far from vague so that the customer can immediately know what they need to do to return an item. If they need to contact the business just to get clarification about the return policy, that also translates to money lost for the business since unnecessary calls can take up labor costs.
2. A difficult process
Customers shouldn’t have to bend over backward just to return an item that they don’t want. Some e-commerce businesses think that by making the returns process difficult, customers will be discouraged to return their orders. This inconspicuous strategy may work to some degree, but what it is mostly doing is pushing away loyal customers and harming the brand’s image.
That said, making returns should be as easy as possible for the customer. This could mean including a free return shipping label in the package, offering flexible return options, and requiring as little documentation as possible.
3. Repairs that take too long
For businesses that take items back for repair, a product warranty management system is essential. This kind of platform streamlines the repair process to make a turnaround as fast as possible and get the item back to the customer within an acceptable period of time. Without this kind of system in place, businesses can risk losing paying customers who are dissatisfied with the slow service.
Similarly, a business’ repairs team must be well-capable of handling the number of repairable items in order to make a quick turnaround, which is why hiring and training enough repair specialists is a crucial part of the reverse logistics process.
4. A hard-to-find policy
No one likes having to scour through the entire website just to find the return policy. Businesses that don’t make their policy easily accessible can seem like they’re hiding it in the first place to discourage returns, and customers don’t like that. If anything, it decreases customer trust and negatively affects brand image.
The return policy should be easy to spot on the website, ideally in the main menu. It should also be present on confirmation emails on purchases so that customers who have already bought items know where to find the return policy in case they don’t like what arrives on their doorstep.
5. Slow refunds
Once the item is shipped back to the seller, customers start waiting for their refund. A return policy must clearly indicate when should customers expect their money back. For example, a business can guarantee a refund seven days after the order arrives at the warehouse. Alternatively, the policy can state that customers should wait for 10-14 after shipping out the item to get their money back.
Slow refunds are some of the most common causes of customer distrust. When the policy states that they will get their refund after 7 days, they expect to get their refund after 7 days. Customers shouldn’t have to wait for their money if they have already returned the item, and a business that is slow to refund their customers will seem less transparent and a less appealing business to buy from.
When writing up a return policy or streamlining the reverse logistics system, it’s important to see things from customers’ viewpoints. What customers hate the most about making returns are also the common issues in reverse logistics. Hence, it pays to pay attention to these common customer woes, especially for brands that are in their early stages of operations.