If you’re going to run a retail business, you have to set some ground rules about returns. Having a clear return policy in place will not only make your life easier from a business standpoint, but it will also make things easier on your customers. The return policy that you implement is so important that it’s smart to take your time while creating it. After all, you don’t want to keep changing it again and again; doing so will only lead to confusion, which could result in a loss of business. Learn a few key points about developing the return policy that’s right for you and your customers below.
The first thing that you need to keep in mind about your store’s return policy is that it needs to be utterly and completely clear. Your customers shouldn’t have to ask about it; your employees shouldn’t have to field countless questions about how it works. How do you achieve this? By posting your return policy prominently in your store. If possible, have it printed on the backs of your receipts, too. Make it easy to find on your website, also, so people can refer there if necessary. Being open and upfront about your policy will make life easier for everyone.
Setting the Requirements
There are a few basic things that you need to decide on from the get-go. What kind of time limit will you put into place regarding the acceptance of returns? Will people have one week to return something, or will they have one month? This will depend on the sophistication of your sale system and on other things. You’ll also need to decide whether or not receipts will be required for returns. Again, if your sale system is high-tech enough, you may not need to put this requirement into place.
Cash or Store Credit?
If you run a small business, returns can eat away at your bottom line. Many people get around this by only offering store credit for returned items. If you own a store that sells niche or specialty items, though, store credit may backfire. After all, a customer may not have any use for any of your products. If you sell a wide variety of things, giving store credit in exchange for a return is perfectly reasonable. Ultimately, though, this decision will hinge on your personal preferences and on the type of store that you own.
Condition of Merchandise
Another thing that you need to consider is the condition of the items that you will accept as returns. Sometimes, it’s fine to accept used items as returns; certain items are essentially still new, even after being used briefly. Other times, though, an item loses a lot of its value as soon as it’s removed from its packaging. If you sell software, accepting opened items is a risky proposition. A good compromise, in some cases, is to accept used or opened merchandise in exchange for store credit only. Think through these possibilities to arrive at the best possible solution.
When a person returns something to your store, will you reimburse them using the same method by which they originally paid? In most cases, that is the smart and simple way to go. In the case of checks, it’s crucial to wait until the original check has cleared before you issue any kind of refund. A common and popular scam is to write a bad check for something and return it. By the time the check bounces, the person who made the original purchase has been reimbursed with cash and is long gone. Issuing a credit via point-of-sale software is usually a snap, too, so it’s smart to reimburse people via the same method in most cases.
Guarding against Fraud
There’s a fine line to walk when it comes to guarding against return fraud. You certainly don’t want to treat every person who returns an item like a criminal. If customers get the sense that you’re reluctant to accept returns, they may avoid your store in the future. At the same time, you and your employees should be trained to look out for common signs of fraud. Also, make sure to keep an eye on the volume of returns that your store handles at any given time. If you see a sudden uptick, it could be that something fishy is happening. Look into getting training for your employees about dealing with suspected fraud, because it will pay off a lot in the long run.
There’s no denying the importance of developing a return policy that works for you and your customers. If you only take your store’s issues into account, you could alienate customers and lose repeat business; if you strictly cater to the needs of your customers, your store could lose out financially. Striking a balance is a tricky proposition, but it’s also achievable. Don’t be afraid to revisit your return policy from time to time and to make occasional changes; just resist the urge to change it too frequently, since doing that can create more trouble than it’s worth for you and your customers.