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Taking the Risk out of ‘Hassle-Free’ Returns


By Robert E. Walters,

It’s a well known fact that stellar customer service can differentiate one retailer from another. From localized product selection to great personal service to lenient return policies, retailers are continually evaluating innovative ways to keep their customers smiling. But as retailers consider changes to their return policies, it’s important to find ways to better manage risk and prevent invalid returns from slipping through the cracks.

Major retailers have revamped their return policies by feeling confident in their ability to protect against fraud, including:

  • Eliminating restocking fees on returns;

  • Improving return speed by reducing the number of manager approvals required; and

  • Increasing the dollar amount of cash that can be refunded on a transaction rather than put on merchandise credit.

Allowing more flexible return terms for loyalty program consumers.

The following tips are offered for improving customer service at the point of return:

  • Provide fair and flexible returns: A recent study showed retailers that don’t provide cash refunds on returns or don’t accept returns without a receipt, rank high on consumers’ list of complaints.

  • Treat your best customers as such: A benefit of implementing return authorization systems is the ability to distinguish good consumers from those committing return fraud.

  • Don’t underestimate the Importance of proper staffing And training: Make sure there is an ample number of staff at the return counter to maintain efficiently and that they fully understand the company’s return policies.

Robert E. Walters is VP of sales and marketing for The Retail Equation, Irvine, Calif., which optimizes retailers’ revenue and margin by shaping behavior in every customer transaction.

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