The following excerpt is from an article written by Barry Moltz, Shafran Moltz Group, and published on the AMEX Open Forum. We've included three of Moltz's points that we find most applicable to college stores below, but be sure to read his full article for other great suggestions.
Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow recently noted that a retailer’s return policy is critical because customers feel the relationship with the company “is just that—a genuine, personal relationship—and that a violation of trust via a bad return experience can ruin this relationship forever.”
As a small-business owner, you can forge strong relationships with your customers by not following big retailer trends of limiting returns. These tips for what not to include will help you craft a return policy that makes everybody happy:
1. Store credit only. Many companies allow product returns but require customers to exchange the unwanted item for another product. But most customers don't see this as a true return since they're still forced into a purchase. If you require someone to buy something they don’t want as part of the return process, you've still got an unsatisfied customer on your hands.
Use this policy instead: Small businesses should always allow a return for a full refund. But you should also train your employees to help customers find a similar product that can satisfy them. Locating another desirable product can help cut back on lost revenue.
2. Short return policy. Some big box retailers are now giving consumers as little as 15 days to return a products they no longer want. With the hustle and bustle of the post-holidays and the fact that many people travel this time of year, this time frame may be unrealistic for some consumers.
Use this policy instead: Having a generous return policy can help you boost sales because many customers who are on the fence about a purchase will often buy more from a store if they know they can return the item without a problem. While you might not be able to offer as generous a return policy as Hammacher Schlemmer, which allows returns for the life of the product, you can be flexible. Publicize a standard return policy of 30 days, but be lenient if a customer returns a product even a few weeks after that date. Your customer will be so relieved that you accept the return, they'll be more likely to buy from you again.
3. Return shipping fees. For most retailers, free shipping for returns is becoming part of the cost of doing business. If customers feel there's no risk by ordering online or over the phone, they're more likely to make the purchase.
Use this policy instead: Emphasize that your company will pay for return shipping if the customer is dissatisfied with the product. Set up a procedure where a shipping label with postage can be sent to your customer to reduce your costs.