If you are the owner of a small business, customer loyalty is one of the most crucial elements to maintaining a successful online business. While some may argue that customer acquisition is just as important as (if not more important than) loyalty, loyal customers that are happy with your service will do more to bring in new customers than any thing you can do on your own. You can spend thousands of dollars a month on marketing and advertising in an attempt to acquire new customers, but if you are unable to keep them satisfied and ultimately loyal you aren’t likely to last long in the retail world.
How Does a Return Policy Relate to Customer Satisfaction?
When asked to rank features of online shopping websites, consumer responses show a lack of clearly communicated and easy to use return policies, but higher satisfaction with aspects such as a simple check-out process and a variety of product and brands, according to a June 2012 survey undertaken by ComScore and UPS.
With some of the most flexible and consumer-oriented return policies in the industry as a part of their online strategies it’s no wonder that Amazon and L.L. Bean achieve high marks in customer satisfaction, achieving scores of 90 in the 2013 ForeSee Experience Index, which measures customer experience in the nation’s top 100 retailers.
Use Available Tools to Write a Customized Return Policy
It can be challenging for new and small business to craft an effective return policy – one that makes sense for retailer and consumer alike. There are however, a number of online resources that can help with the tricky legal aspects of return policies. There are websites like Shopify which provide personalized refund policy generators that ask a for a few simple details – name of the business, business location and contact information – then generate sample return policy language that you can simply cut and paste onto your website.
If the copy does not suit your needs, you can tweak any aspect to more closely reflect your particular business model. Do you prefer that the customer pay for return shipping, and you’ll offer that cost as a credit on their account? State that. What time period works best for you: seven, 14 or 30 days?
While you may be tempted to tailor your return policy to work best for you, keep in mind the UPS survey referenced above, which found that consumers tend to have a low level of satisfaction with issue related to returns.
How Can a Return Policy Help with the Customer Acquisition Piece of the Puzzle?
An increasingly important driver of online shopping, customer recommendations are expected to take on even greater importance in 2014 as search engines place greater emphasis on reviews. Yahoo may begin to display Yelp! reviews in their results in 2014, and Google has some advertising options that can include reviews.
If you wondering what the link between your return policy and customer recommendation is, look no further than a May 2013 ComScore/UPS study that found that return policies play a key role in driving positive recommendations. When asked about which services or features led consumers to recommending an online retailer, two of the top five responses dealt specifically with return policies.
Conversely, the study found that a difficult or unsatisfactory return policy is a driver of negative reviews – a commerce killer.
Dimensional Research asked consumers about how online reviews influenced their buying decisions; 90 percent of respondents stated that positive reviews influenced their decision, while 86 percent said that negative reviews influenced their decision.
While it may at first appear that creating a customized return policy may cause more problems than it solves, there are free services available to help you draft the one that will work for you. If you want to keep the customers that you have returning to your site, you need to make sure that you have a return policy in place, one that makes sense for your business. If you aren’t sure about what terms you should set, there are plenty of examples across the Internet that you can look to for inspiration. When it comes to keeping customers loyal, you want to make sure that you have a return policy that makes it easy for them to return items that may not be exactly what they wanted. Along with keeping loyal customers coming back, a fair and solid return policy can bring in new customers as well. When a loyal customer is happy with your service, they are more likely to recommend you to their friends and family. In the long term it will help to build customer satisfaction and loyalty, taking you another step down the path to developing a relationship with your customers, the holy grail of retail.