Communication is key – The importance of great customer service in the returns process
The sale is not lost on a return, nor is it the end of a retailer’s relationship with a customer. Returns are simply part and parcel of doing business online. Often, the high returning customers are also the VIP customers retailer’s want to keep. Shoppers that buy a lot will naturally have to return a lot too. Treating returners with the same importance as a customer who has just made a purchase and is waiting for their order will give you the best chance of retaining that customer. That means giving them the same level of tracking, communication, and updates on their refund as the customers checking to see when their order is due to arrive.
Around a third of UK shoppers will purchase multiple colours or sizes of an item with the intention of returning at least one item. This astonishingly rises to 47% with 18 to 25 year olds, who admit that ‘bracketing’ (the act of buying multiple versions of the same item to try at home much like a fitting room) is merely part of their eCommerce routine. For these shoppers, they aren’t returning through dissatisfaction, but necessity. Sales aren’t lost when a return is requested, but a customer can be lost for good if the returns process is difficult.
Here’s a snapshot from our recent Retail Returns Study 2021, which can be downloaded here.
A CEB Global Study found that 90% of customers that embarked on a frustrating, reactive customer experience became disloyal to that brand, with 80% actively passing on the negative sentiment to other potential or existing customers.
Only 17% of consumers believe that brands take their customers seriously (Moffitt, Dover and Tapscott, 2010). A slick returns process provides the retailer with the perfect showcase for providing a great customer service. To some, a return action can effectively signal the end of the customer journey but by providing customers with the same level of care as when they purchase, retailers can bolster their customer-centric image.
Tracking is an important aspect of customer communication. Every time a customer successfully views the tracking status of their return, a retailer is ensuring a smooth experience and reducing the likelihood of an inbound enquiry. 44% of ZigZag Global Retail Return Study respondents believe that a good returns policy requires tracking an item through the process.
Do consumers want to hear more from retailers regarding their returns?
64% of UK customers revealed they are happy with the levels of communication received from retailers during the returns process. Most retailers use a combination of HTML marketing emails and SMS updates to keep customers informed as their return makes it back, with most also updating on whether the return has been inspected and a refund issued. Some retailers of course rely solely on the parcel tracking capabilities of the carrier service selected by the customer, which will neglect to inform them of their refund progress.
There is room for improvement though. Around 36% of respondents felt they would like to be informed more about the progress of their return, with 56–65-year-olds feeling most strongly. It’s not just emails or texts at key milestones that customers crave though. 63% of people surveyed have monitored the progress of their return through a tracking service proving there is a large demand for live tracking updates on returns.
Did you know?
Customers are increasingly requesting SMS updates for both orders and returns. SMS updates keep customers informed in real time and result in fewer missed deliveries and collection slots. More retailers than ever switched SMS updates on for 2020’s peak season.
Fast fashion and even faster refunds
The rise in popularity of next-day deliveries have contributed to consumers expecting similar speeds when returning their goods and receiving the respective refund. Of course, the extra steps needed such as grading the returned products to ensure they have not been damaged in addition to processing the actual payment itself, are seldom taken into consideration by the consumer. With most customers not spending until their refund has been settled, it is vital to offer customers the earliest possible reassurances and process the refund as soon as possible.
Though consumers typically want quicker refunds, most consider it acceptable to wait up to seven days, before the numbers tail off dramatically. 85% of respondents expect to be refunded within the week.
As emphasised by ZigZag Global’s Retail Returns Study, 7% of consumers stated that they would expect an instant refund. At 11%, the age group that was most adamant about receiving an instant refund was 18–25-year-olds. Whilst a great way to inspire customer loyalty through a trustworthy and convenient returns experience, instant refunds are not without their problems.
Instant refunds, by nature, are a no-questions-asked acceptance by the retailer that the returning item will arrive in an unused, undamaged condition. If instant refunds are marketed in the online returns policy, it may attract fraudulent consumers looking to use the product (perhaps for an Instagram photoshoot or a party) before returning it for a full refund. Instead, instant refunds should be offered to the top VIP customers — often identified by a returns management solution such as ZigZag Global.
Proactive communication and quicker refunds reduce customer service queries
“Where is my refund?” is the second biggest question a retailer gets asked. However, if the customer can “opt in” to notifications on their returns progress, and a retailer’s returns solution provides instant refunds – customers are kept in the loop, solving a major customer service pain point for retailers.
By utilising ZigZag’s returns management solution, our retailers have enjoyed 40% drop in customer service enquiries. Not only can this result in a substantial decrease in overhead costs associated with running the customer services department, but ultimately, less queries and complaints is evidence that the retailer now has far happier and more satisfied customers.
Get your copy of the whitepaper now!
If you are interested in finding out more about generating loyalty and improving your returns experience, make sure you download the ‘ZigZag Global Retail Returns Study 2021: What do consumers really want?’ Whitepaper here >>