The holidays are by far the busiest time of year in ecommerce fulfillment. Once everything is over, you can finally breathe that deep sigh of relief and allow yourself to settle down a bit, right? Wrong. According to the Wall Street Journal, the USPS alone handled 3.2 million post-holiday returns a couple years ago; and that’s just one carrier. After the holidays end, you need to refocus your attention on satisfying the customers who have unsuitable, defective, or incorrectly sized merchandise they need to send back. So, it’s time to comprise a plan to handle post-holiday returns and keep your customers on your side. Now the question is, what can you do?
Make Your Return Policy Known
Many retailers decide to extend their usual return window during the holidays to account for the prolonged amount of time between purchase and gifting. Make sure this is established clearly in an easy to spot place on your website. Doing so will inspire more confidence in a purchase and help recipients find the information they need if they find themselves having to return something. But, what makes a superior return policy?
- Offer free return shipping: If possible, avoid charging customers trying to return an item they don’t enjoy or doesn’t suit them.
- Provide refund information: Explain to the customer exactly when full credit will be issued, in what method, and any information about restocking fees.
- Make the process easy for them: Clearly explain to how the merchandise can be returned to you and try to keep the process as automated as possible
- Provide necessary contact information: If a problem or question arises, customers should have a way to get in touch with someone as quickly as possible
Have a Killer Customer Service Team
As with any department, training is an essential part of handling post-holiday rush. If your team is lost, your customers will know. Make sure everyone involved with the customer service department knows what to expect in regards to returns and exchanges ahead of time to avoid any confusion. They should be knowledgeable about return period time frames, exchange policies, proof of purchase policies, and how to handle damaged goods. It is also important to keep in mind that new questions and concerns will likely come up as time moves forward, so make sure you are available to assist in any way you can.
Know what to do With Returned Merchandise
What should you do when you get these items back? Plan on having at least a few members of your team trained to provide visual inspections of returned orders. When you receive a return from a customer, your employees should evaluate each product individually and note its condition when it arrives. If it’s still new or able to be resold, add it back to inventory and credit the customer. If the condition of the product is not good enough to be restocked, your return policy should provide insight on how to handle this. If you choose to not issue credit back for a damaged item, make sure the customer if aware of that possibility ahead of time. If the damage is not the customer’s fault however, toss it and refund them or replace their damaged good.
Although both holiday and post-holiday periods have high potential for stress, with some planning and communication things can run smoothly and be far less painful than you may expect. As long as you are prepared, your post-holiday returns should not cause you any excess worry.