The holiday season is almost here. Online shopping has increased dramatically in recent years, particularly during the ongoing worldwide pandemic. Retailers will see another surge in post-holiday returns, because many people received gifts they did not want or need. If you follow this simple guide and prepare your reverse logistics processes, you’ll reduce returns rates and minimize losses that result from returns. This is true whether you work at a fulfillment center, ecommerce brand or traditional retail establishment.

1. Educate Your Staff about Customer Returns Experience

Your staff understands that the rush of Black Friday and holiday shopping, in general, promote impulse holiday sales purchases that lead to higher returns rates. What they may not know is how important hassle-free returns are to the customer experience.

Holiday Returns

That creates an opportunity for you to implement a post-holiday returns management strategy by developing a peak season returns management checklist and guide. Both can act as a “playbook” for staff to manage holiday returns for retail and ecommerce.

Your peak season returns management checklist should be simple to understand, but thorough to alleviate any confusion.

Part of your peak season returns management guide should also cover how to handle difficult customers. Including a few management tactics that can help reduce their stress level and increase the likelihood they can handle an upset customer.

2. Staff Adequately for Planned Returns Management

Your staff is exhausted after the holiday rush. Make sure you have shifts covered as thoroughly for returns and implementing post-holiday reverse logistics strategies as you did for the peak push.

Give incentives to staff to take shifts and for seasonal staff to stay on a little longer. Remember to plan for the uptick in any budget planning you do.

3. Make the Returns Process Seamless

The key to a great returns process is to be proactive. Take the time to understand what your customers expect from the return process, and you’ll save yourself some unnecessary headaches in the long run. No matter how your customers choose to return items, make it easy on them and you will be rewarded with increased brand loyalty. Have staff observe the returns process and recommend improvements. This will motivate them as partners in the post-holiday returns management process.

4. Provide Viable Alternatives

Returns are inevitable. That is a fact of retail life. Not every return has to result in the loss of a product or sale. Here are some policies that can help. 

  • Resell returned products at a discounted price to salvage some of the cost back
  • Have an “of equal value” policy that staff encourages before processing an outright return
  • Push “store credits” versus a full refund of cash to hold onto the sale

The key to reducing the number of returns is to have a clearly defined policy. Having a clear return policy helps customers by giving them confidence in your business. By clearly defining what you will accept back, customers know they can trust you to provide high-quality goods and services.

5. Analyze Why Returns Happen

Your best-laid plan for returns management is flawed if it does not include a way for you and staff to analyze why customers are returning items. Capture customer input with details outlining reason for returns, ask for pictures if applicable and encourage staff to ask why someone is returning an item when accepting in person returns.

Then, look at all the reasons, products, etc., and see if you can spot trends. In most cases, the more you figure out the “why” of a commerce return, the easier it will be to avoid the return in the future.Follow these tips to make the most of your post-holiday returns rush. If you’d like some assistance with your returns management strategy, book a call with one of the reverse logistics experts on the team. They can help you put a plan in place to maximize recovery on returns this holiday season.


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Drawing on more than 22 years of experience in the supply chain industry, Julie Arington joined G2 to build the foundational programs and processes required to scale a start-up company — including human resources programs, project management initiatives, product management, branding, and marketing.