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How to handle retail returns this holiday season

How to handle retail returns this holiday season

Many retailers are focused on making sales during the holidays, but there’s another aspect of customer service they shouldn’t overlook: returns.

Implementing and executing a seamless return policy is critical for many reasons. For one, a hassle-free return experience for customers will leave shoppers feeling good about the company, which will help turn buyers into repeat consumers. A streamlined return policy also helps businesses save money by cutting down on costly mistakes, and it can actually increase sales in some instances.

Before the shopping frenzy is in full swing, retailers need to examine their supply chain and address any logistical concerns, train employees to provide quick and painless return service in stores and prepare to gather customer data that will help reduce the number of returns in the future. Business owners who do this will reap the benefits in the form of increased profits and more satisfied customers.

For retailers who are concerned about the costs of revamping their return policy, alternative business loans are a convenient and effective way to get extra cash to handle the increased traffic through the holiday season.

Is your supply chain costing you money?
There were more than $260 billion in items returned in 2015, according to Retail Dive. Once a customer returns a product, there are several things that might happen, but to do any of them efficiently retailers need to have an effective supply chain in place. This means talking to manufacturers, vendors and any other stakeholders involved in delivering products to customers to ensure everyone is on the same page during this hectic time.

Depending on the particular item and the condition of its return, retailers usually have three options: reselling, recycling or remanufacturing, according to Business Insider Australia. Business owners should have a clear plan in place for each of these scenarios to cut down on confusion and the possibility for mistakes.

This process of taking back returned items – also known as reverse logistics – can pay big dividends for companies who take the time to invest in it. This might mean integrating an updated tracking system that allows companies to follow both online and in-person returns in one system.

Businesses can recoup as much as 32 percent of a total product’s cost by having an effective reverse logistics plan, the source noted. It’s particularly important to have a clear system in place for businesses that have an e-commerce component. Returns are more common in online sales because customers aren’t as sure about the products they ordered.

Business owners who are unsure about whether they can afford to upgrade their supply chain management should look into a small business loan from an alternative lender. It’s easier for applicants to get approved than through a traditional bank, and individuals can also receive their money in as little as 24 hours.

Teach employees how to handle returns
Nothing tanks sales faster than bad customer service. Due to the higher traffic stores usually face during the holidays, business owners might have to put an employee in charge of returns who has never done them before. If a customer has to wait in a long line, jump through hoops or talk to a grumpy sales rep, they will leave the store with a sour taste in their mouth and might not come back again.

To avoid this, owners should carve out time to train employees on how to properly conduct returns in a friendly and efficient manner to make sure customers leave with a good impression of the store. It would also benefit businesses to assign a few additional staff members to handle returns during this busy period.

Business owners should also consider offering incentives to employees to provide quality customer service while handling returns, according to Vend, a retail management software provider. Some customers who are bringing an item back might not be in a great mood, which might discourage store employees from handling a swarm of unpleasant customers in a nice way. To motivate staff to deal with this, managers should consider buying pizzas or bringing in treats for staff members to show appreciation for their efforts.

To handle the cost of having more staff members around, business owners should consult an alternative lending source to talk about getting a small business loan.

Take customer concerns to heart
As consumers file through to return items they aren’t satisfied with, it’s important for businesses to record exactly why customers are returning products. This is important because then management can work with their employees and vendors throughout their supply chain to avoid these problems in the future.

This might mean updating marketing campaigns or revising a company’s website to better reflect store policies. It’s also in a business’ best interest to provide multiple return options for customers. It’s so important that 87 percent of consumers said they are more likely to shop at a retailer if it offers multiple ways to return an item, according to a CFI Group report.

Incorporating customer feedback into a business’ return policy is an underrated way to retain consumers and get an edge on the competition. Alternative lenders can assist business owners who are thinking about making any upgrades to their brick-and-mortar stores or online presence. These loans are more convenient for applicants than bank loans and a reliable way for entrepreneurs to weather the busy holiday shopping season with ease.

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