In the fable “Androcles and the Lion,” a boy removes a thorn from a lion’s paw and gains the lion’s loyalty for life. Recently, our team of researchers vetted the ecommerce return process at 55 omnichannel retail chains in search of thorns. They found eight common pain points aka thorns. Which ones would you remove from your ecommerce returns process to gain consumer loyalty?
- Needing to decipher lengthy terms and conditions for what is marketed as an “easy return”
- Requiring all original packaging—bags, boxes, and labels—to be returned
- Having to call or email the help desk to request an RMA or shipping label
- Waiting for postal mail to deliver the RMA or shipping label
- Paying fees that seem punitive rather than essential
- Waiting weeks for refunds to post to their credit card
- Being unable to track the status of the return or refund
- Feeling ignored by the lack of re-engagement messaging
Can you remove your thorns?
Some are easier to solve than others. Shortening the word count in your return policy or avoiding describing complicated processes as “easy” are relatively simple. Even describing necessary fees differently could remove some annoyance without changing your process.
Tech can make consumers more autonomous thus reducing contact with the consumer service center.
Most of the items on the list above, however, will require more significant change and possibly interdepartmental negotiations. The procedures probably grew out of need and may be vestiges of an old way of doing business. For example, some fees may still be added even though they are no longer a cost to the retailer. Similarly, low tech solutions like branded packaging and tracking numbers helped authenticate a purchase, so consumers were required to return all original packaging. Today you can verify a return with technology instead of examining stickers on boxes and torn plastic bags.
Tech could also make consumers more autonomous and thus reduce required contact with the consumer service center. Perhaps RMAs and return shipping label requests could be made with a button click instead of a call or message. If consumers could print their own, the documents could be used immediately instead of waiting days for delivery. (A real-time return authorization system would help prevent loss to unscrupulous consumers.)
Reworking timelines may ease the burden on consumers.
Accelerating refunds may be the most complicated issue to address due to the obvious risks and because of procedures at third-party processors. When your company issues a refund to the consumer’s credit or debit card, the bank can take weeks to post the credit. Reworking internal timelines and exploring reimbursement options may enable you to elevate the consumer experience.
Our researchers were surprised that only one retailer in 55 sent an email expressing regret that the shopper wasn’t satisfied with the initial purchase. Throughout the purchase process they were wooed with options and incentives. They received updates as their orders were packed, shipped, and delivered. Yet when they navigated the prescribed process to make the return, there was silence. They interpreted this as a lack of caring; they felt devalued.
The goal: Build shopper loyalty
In the fable, the lion remembered the kindness. In your business, consumers will remember whether you have made the returns process thorny or smooth. When your CX shows the consumer that you value them and their time, loyalty will be your reward.
Carrie Cassidy, Director, Marketing, Appriss Retail
A technology advocate for more than 25 years, Carrie makes information about advanced data analytics solutions accessible to retail professionals through a variety of media. She has written numerous white papers, case studies, and articles for a variety of industries ranging from motion control to human resources.