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How to Write a Killer Returns Policy for Your E-Commerce Business

How to Write a Killer Returns Policy for Your E-Commerce Business

Considering the huge amount of competition in E-Commerce, it’s becoming more and more important to stand out (however you choose to do that). One undervalued method of providing better customer service than your competition is through having a well thought out, effective returns policy- not necessarily one that’s too generous, but one that’s at least clear and easy to understand.

mouse with return boomerang

So what exactly goes into a returns policy? If you only recently started out, you may have been tempted to copy one from another site. If you run a number of sites, maybe you use the same policy for each, copy and pasted! Well, it’ll take a little time to come up with the perfect policy, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run. Here’s everything you need to do:

Creating a Returns Policy – Cover the Basics

First things first, you have to cover the absolute basics. This is everything that your customer needs to know to return one of your items. In truth, it’s mostly common sense! You should cover:

  • How long does a customer have until they can’t return an item?

You could pick a week, a month or a year; it’s up to how generous you want to be. One point to note is that if you make a point of selling warranties and guarantees for products, you wouldn’t benefit from an extensive return period.

  • Will the customer get credit, an exchange or money back?

Here’s a big choice for you! Offering straight money back is a sign of good faith, whereas some customers will be a little miffed that they only get store credit. On the flip side, offering store credit effectively means that you never lose out on a sale because of a return. An exchange is much the same as store credit.

A good rule of thumb is that if the item is broken on arrival, you should offer the customer their money back. But if the customer would, on second thought, prefer their new chair in a shade of aubergine rather than magenta? That’s something that they should have decided before they ordered, rather than something that’s ‘on you’; in that situation, there’s no good reason not to offer an exchange or store credit.

  • Who pays for postage?

Again, offering to pay for postage comes across as good customer service. At the same time- of course- it’s an added expense when you may already be giving a customer their money back.

  • Where should the customer send the return item?

If the customer doesn’t know the address that they have to return the item to, how can they return it!?

  • How should the customer package the item (e.g. in the box that it came in, or anything so long as it fits?)

This is a point that many return policies don’t cover, but here’s why you should. First of all, taking an extra few minutes to make your returns policy as comprehensive as possible is going to save you plenty of time in the future (since you won’t have to answer as many customer queries).

But more importantly, explaining how to properly pack your item will save you money. That’s because customers return items for all sorts of reasons. Of course, there are the times when you send out the wrong thing, or where you send out something that’s been damaged. But sometimes there’s actually nothing wrong with the product, and you could sell it again. So it’s vital that you get it back in one piece to recoup the cost of the return by providing proper instructions for how to pack and return an item.

Avoid Jargon at all Costs

Moving on, here’s a more general point: avoid jargon. There are two reasons why a business might use unclear, unusual language in a returns policy: either it was written by a committee of lawyers, or the business is trying to make it as difficult as possible to return something. Not a good look. Instead, be clear and concise. Explain your policy like you would to a friend, and you can’t go wrong.

At the same time, if you use too much legalese, or too many run-on sentences, you’ll confuse your customers. They’ll return items after the policy allows, or expect cash instead of credit. And when they don’t get what they expect, they’ll write, and they won’t be happy! You’ll be creating your own customer service nightmare when you really don’t need to.

And really? That’s it. The only thing that’s left to do is put it all together. Below we’ve written out a template of a basic returns policy. Take a look!

Returns Policy Template

IKILLYA Frustrating Self-Assembly Furniture’s No-Quibble Returns Policy: Your Money Back (Note: however generous you want to be, ‘set out your stall’ from the very first line. It pays to be clear!)

At IKILLYA, we believe that if it’s our fault, we’ll fix it. In the extremely unlikely occasion that we’ve sent you a damaged or incorrect item, you can return it for a full refund.

We’ll refund the full amount that you were charged (including the original postage), although the return fee will be yours to pay.
We recommend using recorded delivery, and packing the item as follows…
We accept returns up to 2 weeks (14 days) after delivery. Note that this means you have to dispatch the item within two weeks, not necessarily that we have to receive the item in two weeks.
Return the item to [address]

We’re also happy to accept returns on items that aren’t damaged/incorrect, although we only offer exchange or store credit in these circumstances.

It’s simplistic, but there’s not much else you need. Depending on what it is you sell, yours might need to include a few stipulations, like if you sell clothes (including underwear)… Well, you get the picture. But with the basic template above and any specifics related to your industry, you’ll have a returns policy you can rely on!