November 20, 2015 Online Store and Retail en_US Your small business' return policy is one of the most important aspects of creating customer loyalty through great customer service. How to Create a Return Policy for Your Small Business
Online Store and Retail

How to Create a Return Policy for Your Small Business

By April Maguire November 20, 2015

As a small business owner, you work hard to make each and every sale. Even the best products, however, don’t always live up to customers’ expectations. While dealing with product returns can be less than pleasant for both owners and customers, businesses need to take steps to create good return policies.

Not only does instituting a good return policy help minimize the time and money spent dealing with these issues, but it also ensures customers leave your store with a positive impression.

Hopefully that impression will be so good that they will purchase from you again. Still, creating the right return policy is easier said than done, and different strategies might prove necessary for brick-and-mortar shops compared to their e-commerce counterparts. Here are a few tips for creating a return policy that works for your small business.

Use Clear Language

When crafting a return policy, it’s important to be both clear and comprehensive. Let customers know whether they can expect to receive cash or store credit, and be specific about how long they have to return an item that doesn’t meet expectations.

While you don’t have to offer full refunds on every single product, it’s important to state any restrictions upfront so customers don’t feel like you’re hiding the truth. Additionally, e-commerce shops in particular should avoid “hidden” costs in their return policies. If you do require customers to pay for certain costs, such as return shipping, be sure to state this restriction when they purchase.

Just as it’s important to be clear in the language of your return policy, stores should also aim to be upfront in describing their products. If you’re selling your wares online, strive to feature precise product descriptions and multiple high-quality photographs. The goal is to ensure customers know what they’re buying so they don’t wind up disappointed.

In the long run, being accurate and honest about your goods is one of the best ways to minimize returns and keep your customer base loyal.

Post It Prominently

Of course, a clear and specific return policy won’t do your business much good if customers are unaware of the terms. For best results, post your policy on the counter of your brick-and-mortar store and feature it prominently on your website. You can also include a copy on your store receipts and in shipping materials.

Just as it’s important to make sure customers understand your return policy, you should aim to educate your employees. The odds are that consumers may already feel annoyed about returning a product. As a small business owner, you want to make the returns process as easy and painless as possible by ensuring your staff knows how to behave.

Consider Your Products

While most businesses allow customers to return goods that don’t meet expectations, different industries tend to have their own standards and guidelines. When crafting your return policy, consider the types of products you sell and what options you will have in terms of resale.

For example, the return policy of a clothing retailer will likely differ from that of a chocolatier. Further, a service provider like a contractor or electrician will probably want to institute various payment points, as opposed to charging one fee at the end, and might not accept returns. Additionally, many businesses opt to restrict returns on items marked as “final clearance.”

Study Your Competition

Still uncertain about the best return policy for your small business? You might want to evaluate the standards set by your competitors. After all, if your customers have a bad experience returning goods to your store, they might take their business to the competition.

If you want to ensure your small business shines in your market’s eyes, consider examining the return policies of some of the companies known for their customer service. Nordstrom, L.L. Bean and Zappos have all set standards when it comes to excellent return service and customer care.

E-Commerce Returns

Having a solid return policy is essential for all businesses, but it’s especially important for e-commerce companies. After all, customers who buy online can’t touch or interact with products before purchasing. Further, most people are more wary about buying goods over the internet.

To help your online shop stand out from the pack, strive to minimize the inconvenience of returning goods by including prepaid return labels with your shipping materials. It’s also smart to provide a phone number that customers can call to speak to a live person about their returns.

Returning items to a store can be less than enjoyable for everyone involved. Along with irate shop owners, consumers often have to deal with sales staffs that are rude or uninformed about the store’s policies. As a small business owner, your goal is to make the returns experience as seamless as possible.

By making it easy for customers to return a product that doesn’t meet their needs, you can hopefully bring them coming back in the future.

Rate This Article
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire has served as a writer, editor and content manager. Currently, she works as a full-time freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Read more