No matter how reliable, consistent, fast or accurate your service is as an e-commerce company, there are two inevitables.
- Customers getting in touch to ask 'where is my order'?
- Customers returning their purchased items.
Particularly in fashion, where return rates can be as high as 40%, these challenges may seem like a purely negative thing that you have to deal with: hiring customer service representatives, losing money on sales, endless anxiety about whether you have a hoard of bad reviews about to hit your TrustPilot and unhappy customers on the other end of the phone.
In the spirit of seizing opportunity where others see disaster, I wanted to offer a new way of looking at these two scenarios. Instead of letting them be exclusively bad things, can you lean into them and take them as opportunities? They are, when viewed through an optimistic lens, two times where you as a brand have a chance to go above and beyond to impress a customer, show them how much you care, and actually increase their loyalty as a repeat buyer.
The dreaded WISMO request:
Don't even lie. If you've bought something online you know the feeling. It's been a day or so and you haven't had quite the communications you were expecting from the company about your order. Especially recently with supply-chain and delivery disruptions thanks to ol' Corona, companies are struggling to meet those 1-2 day promises, often through no fault of their own. So you ring them up, or email, or use their on-site chatbot.
As the merchant, these interactions are opportunities. A potentially upset, confused, anxious or disgruntled customer can finish the conversation satisfied, enlightened, delighted, happy! If, that is, you can provide them with:
- Real time data. The customer should not have to provide anything more than their name or email address for you to be able to find out exactly who they are, their order history, when the order in question was made. Then, with a personalised response, you should be able to tell them when the items were picked in the warehouse, who packaged the items and when, when the label was printing, and when the courier picked up the item. Armed with all that information, re-assuring a customer that their order has been handled efficiently and is 'on the way' is a lot easier. Empirical evidence beats uncertainty every time.
"One of the biggest benefits is having your customer service team liaising directly with your warehouse team: Peoplevox allows all areas of the business to have a full view on where the orders are in the processing journey."
If you do this well, that customer now has every reason to trust you more, tell their friends that your customer service is ace, and feel comfortable shopping with you again.
Getting a return on returns:
Returns are annoying. You think you've done everything right: attracted someone in, they've found something they want, in stock, made the purchase… you've then fulfilled the order, got it shipped, delivered, all smooth. Marketing, sales and operations in perfect harmony. Then…
Returns happen for all kinds of reasons, some more honest than others. There's probably a sliding scale from: 'doesn't suit me', 'gift recipient didn't like it', through 'looked different in the photo', to 'I ordered the same thing in 4 different sizes with every intention of returning 3' and the serial behaviour of ordering a whole 'haul' of items just to try them on and have a look, like you would in a physical store, again, fully intending only to keep the favourites.
Rather than cursing blindly at these customers, I think brands can accept that returns are a part of life. It comes with the territory. Many do! Many realise that returns are another opportunity to show your customer just how generous, understanding and 'easy to shop with' you are. Your returns process should be just as smooth as your purchase process.
- Clear instructions on both the website and somehow embedded into the packaging of the item.
- A pre-printed returns shipping label or a totally digital returns portal, branded up to feel like the same as the webstore.
- Of course, buy now, pay later options should feature here as well so that people only part with their cash when they're settled on the right items.
- Perhaps a step further, can you make your packaging re-usable for the return shipment, to save your customer finding another box/mailer? And making it really obvious, with 'tear here' strips and double-sided closing tape, so the customer doesn't rip the box to pieces.
- Can you even assist by automating the booking of a courier to come to the customer's address and pick up the items in question, to save them a trip to the Post Office.
The scope for epic reverse logistics is really broad! And a tremendous benefit of a remarkable returns experience is that the customer will be all the more confident shopping with you, as they know even if they get the wrong size or it just doesn't look the same on, getting it right will be hassle free again.