The Most Important Customer Touch Points for E-commerce Returns
The three most important customer touch points for e-commerce returns are i) When the item is returned to a post office or drop off location ii) When an item is received at a warehouse iii) When a refund is issued or exchange is sent out. Below we detail the best practice ways to manage these touch points
Most brands see the returns process as a necessary evil. According to a Shopify study, 44% of merchants consider returns to be a pain point in the e-commerce experience. And why wouldn’t they? When a customer returns an item, it costs your business extra in labor time, along with shipping and restocking fees. Reverse logistics costs for consumer goods equate to over 8% of total sales, on average.
But savvy merchants are rethinking the returns process and looking at returns as an opportunity to showcase a superior customer experience. They can build customer retention and advocacy by making the most of every customer checkpoint with their brand during the returns process.
Eighty-four percent of customers said that a great return experience would lead them to shop with a brand again. In fact, customers who received a refund saw a 17.8% increase in repeat purchases compared to customers who didn’t engage in any return event. Exchanges provide an even more significant lift, and saw a 34% increase in repeat purchases.
In order to make the most of the customer return experience, however, you need to ensure that your customer experience is superlative through every stage of the returns process. And that means focusing on following best practices that will paint your brand in its best possible light and make your customers feel confident in the process at every customer checkpoint during the return process.
What is a customer checkpoint?
Throughout the customer journey, your customers may have dozens or even hundreds of interactions with your brand. Each of these interactions are referred to as checkpoints or touchpoints.
During the discovery and consideration stage, your customers may first encounter your brand via a Facebook ad or social media post. As they begin to interact with your brand and educate themselves on your content, they’ll go deeper into your marketing funnel by visiting your website, reading your blog, signing up for your newsletter, or downloading your app, for example.
When they’re ready to make a purchase, they’ll engage with your e-commerce platform and should receive an instant order confirmation, followed by a shipping notice with tracking details as soon as they are available. They should also receive a notice when their order has been delivered. All of these customer checkpoints serve to strengthen the customer relationship and build trust in your brand. Your customers should feel confident about the status of their order at every point in time.
Customer checkpoints are just as important throughout the returns process. When a customer processes a return, they need assurance that the experience will meet the expectations you’ve set in your returns policy and that they will receive their refund or exchange in a timely manner.
In particular, there are three key checkpoints during the returns process where it’s important to focus on the customer experience.
1. When the item is delivered to the post office or drop-off location
The moment that a customer drops off a returned item at their local carrier is when their worries begin.
Their package contains a certain value that they are expecting to get back, whether that's as a refund or a new item. But now the process is out of their control. And they have to rely on other people to get the item back to your brand.
To reduce this anxiety, share an update as soon as the package is scanned in at the carrier. Depending on the customer’s communication preferences, you might notify them via email, text, and/or in-app notification. When they receive this message, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief and feel confident knowing their package is on its way back to you. Learn more about how to develop messaging for this type of communication in our post-purchase emails for returns post.
2. When you receive the item at your warehouse
At this point, it’s been a few days since they dropped off their return, and your customers are nervously waiting and wondering whether their return item has successfully made it back. What if it got lost in the mail? What if the package got damaged in transit? These are the questions that will be filling their heads.
When your warehouse or 3PL provider receives the item, it’s important to provide your customer with an update to let them know the item has been successfully returned. This customer checkpoint is especially important if their exchange or refund is dependent on you inspecting their items to make sure they are in good condition.
When you proactively let your customers know that their return items are safe and sound, it builds confidence in your brand because it shows the customer that you care about their peace of mind. As a result, this increases the chances that the customer will come away feeling positive about their returns experience and come back for another purchase in the future.
3. When the refund has been issued or the exchange has been sent out
Can you guess what the #1 support request is? Yup, it’s customers reaching out to ask, "where is my refund?"
Knowing this, it should be no surprise that one of the customer checkpoints we recommend is to reach out to customers as soon as their refund has been issued or their exchange item has been sent out. This is a great opportunity to beat your customers to the punch and proactively address their needs before they send a frustrated note to your support team.
Not only is this a great way to give your customers peace of mind, but it also gives you another opportunity to remind them what a great experience they had with your brand—hopefully encouraging them to come back and shop with you again in the future.
Depending on whether you need to inspect the product before issuing a refund, you may even consider issuing a refund immediately when the item is scanned at the dropoff location. By combining these two important touchpoints, you can eliminate the need for customers to worry about when the item reaches your warehouse.
Don’t leave your customers in the dark when it comes to their returns. Building these three key customer checkpoints into your return process will help you set your customers up for a much more transparent, seamless, and worry-free experience.
And by creating customer-friendly return policies and ensuring a flawless customer experience through every stage of the purchase and returns process, you can build your customers’ confidence in your brand. In the future, customers will be likely to purchase higher-value items from your brand at a higher frequency, because they know that they can confidently track the status of their return and feel secure that they’ll receive their refund or exchange in a timely manner. Aligning with your customer expectations and ensuring a smooth communication process through every step will help you win over loyal customers that will advocate for you to their friends and family, supporting your customer retention and acquisition efforts.
Stop looking at a return as the end of the customer relationship—when done correctly, it’s just the beginning.