November 12, 2020

Why I shouldn’t have to call Customer Support to return something

When it comes to sending goods back as a customer, there are often what feels like a barrage of obstacles. How many of these are truly necessary to the process? When a customer has a very normal and legitimate reason for wanting to return an item, does it really warrant a phone call, email exchange, live chat or discussion at the checkout? Consider the average customer service advisor – if a quarter of their time is spent discussing and processing returns, that eats heavily into their value.

They’re not supporting customers who genuinely require help, and they’re spending time holding up annoying hoops for customers to jump through. Those customers just want to get their return sorted, not to answer a bunch of questions and spend time on the phone with you. It devalues customer support, and it devalues the product you’re returning too, because you’ve invested more resource into it before it even leaves the customer’s hands.

Ultimately, what does customer service do that could not be achieved by the customer themself? Not much, as it turns out. Why make the customer call you up and have an employee manually enter data for them when you could allow the customer to do it herself with a few clicks on a digital returns portal?

There is a perception that customers are out to get retailers with fraudulent returns, and yes, a tiny minority of customers may try to do this. Let’s say I’m that customer. Is the fact that I have to call up and bend the truth to a support rep going to stop me? Probably not. So why penalize your entire customer base with a system that takes more of their time and your time than necessary?

Creating bad experiences is bad practice

Well, one reason is to deliberately make returns harder, and therefore reduce return rates. But that’s a false economy. Metapack data shows 56% of shoppers have been put off by returns policies even before they purchase, and 95% of shoppers surveyed by ShipStation said that a bad returns experience puts them off from shopping with the retailer again.

Look, we hear about ‘seamless experiences’ a lot when retailers talk about online shopping, but all too often that philosophy ends when the parcel leaves the warehouse. Today, (particularly when shoppers are exercising more caution than ever) purchase decisions are not just based on ease of purchase and price – they are significantly affected by ease and speed of returns. The need to negotiate a returns authorization may well discourage returns, but it will also discourage customers from returning to your store.

It’s not just that bad return experiences have a negative impact – positive experiences encourage an enduring cycle of customer loyalty – the holy grail of ecommerce. The bottom line is this: 87% of US online shoppers we surveyed with YouGov this October say that they are more likely to shop again after a positive returns experience.

Taking the longer view

The free Doddle returns portal offers precisely that positive returns experience, allowing shoppers to directly select how they want to make their return, through a network of convenient parcel drop-off points – and then quickly share the reason for return. They’re issued with a QR code to present when they arrive with their parcel, and without ever needing to speak to a customer service rep, they actually get more detailed and reassuring information about their return and refund thanks to automatic, retailer-branded email notifications.

This kind of automated process is not just necessary to keep costs down and extend that ‘seamless experience’ all the way into your returns process – although that’s clearly very important – but because every return generates valuable data about your products and your customer. Each element of the customer journey is an opportunity to get to know their habits better and have a deeper understanding of how your customer types conduct themselves, and returns is no different. This ‘lifecycle’ view improves customer segmentation for sales and marketing, while also helping you to write the playbook for reducing your returns rate in the long term.

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