The after sales service you provide as a small business is just as paramount to your on-going success as the service you deliver before and during the sales process.
It may seem as though the customer has now left your organisation and you can essentially forget about them, but how you treat and engage with your customers after they’ve made a purchase from you is extremely important. It’s what makes them want to come back. It’s what makes them talk about your brands to their friends and family. It’s what satisfies them – and a satisfied customer is the type of customer you want.
Although there are various things to consider as part of the after-sales process, the returns policy you offer is one of the most notable. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the aspects that so many people take only a fraction of the time they should over when developing it.
Tending to ‘borrow’ their policy from other organisations, they tweak and change a few little bits to suit their own small business and that’s it. Job done.
But while this no doubt works, it doesn’t achieve a great deal. Aside from the fact if the organisation the policy was borrowed from got it wrong, it also means you have, not developing your own returns policy can mean you don’t stand out from the crowd and crucially, aren’t doing your utmost to satisfy customers.
As with the after-sales process as a whole, there’s lots to take into consideration when it comes to the returns policy itself, but one of the key ways you can develop an unbeatable policy that really makes you stand out from the crowd and pleases your customers is to have one thing at the centre of it – flexibility.
When we want to return a product to a store, we generally don’t expect a lot. All we want is to take it back and get our money back. We’re understanding of certain limitations and if we don’t have a receipt or something’s not in the exact same condition we bought it in, we’re happy to settle for a gift voucher or credit note.
What tends to annoy us the most about the whole system is the amount of time we have to return a product. Some stores say 7 days, others 14, several 21 and a few offer 28 day returns – and it’s these longer periods that tend to satisfy us most because they offer the greatest level of flexibility.
We don’t have to worry about buying an outfit, taking it home, trying it on, not liking it and travelling back to the store for a refund immediately, for example. We obviously don’t want to leave it forever as we want our money back, but the less of a rush there is, the better.
It’s same with having the receipt. Some businesses are particularly strict on their refunds, saying ‘no receipt, no refund’. But why?
It’s understandable in some instances (for instance, buy some branded diapers from one supermarket and if you don’t have the receipt when trying to take them back, who’s to say you actually bought them from that store in the first place?), but what about those instances where you can guarantee the products were purchased from that store (or that company)?
Clothes are a great example. Go to a store and pick up a pair of their own jeans. You can only buy them from that company and so even if it was a different store (in terms of location) you were trying to return them to, the money all goes into the same pot, so there shouldn’t be any major problem returning the jeans without a receipt (assuming they’re in an as-new condition).
Every small business is going to be different and your attitude towards returns is going to differ to your competitors’. Although there are no real rights or wrongs, you’ll see more success and increased customer satisfaction if you can offer flexibility, which in many instances, is simply want we want as consumers right across the board.