Are Returns Bringing Down your Holiday Season?


Share on LinkedIn

At RiverStar, we keep a keen eye on return patterns and how companies deal with these returns. Last year, we conducted a Return Management Study and were able to gather a great deal of data around company processes, customer behaviors and customer service activities related to online return management. The conclusion wasn’t pretty: most companies are still in the dark ages when it comes to handling online returns, with manual processes still prevailing. AND, it’s only going to get more complicated.

Cyber Monday has taken hold and the trend of online purchasing is quickly on the rise. Just released 2010 Cyber Monday sales data shows that revenues have topped $1 Billion for the first time. This increase provides further evidence that consumers are more comfortable shopping online and trusting in the cyber experience and security. However, with multi-channel shopping, comes multi-channel returns. Web self service return management processes will need to be optimized in order to handle the return volume. The good news is that the RiverStar Return Management Study revealed that 2/3rds of the companies surveyed determined that Return Management is a key part of their customer service strategy; concluding that companies are realizing that this process is very important to future success. Not only are these processes key to customer service excellence, they can significantly effect product profitability if the company is not efficient in their workflow and is also absorbing the costs of return shipments.

Fraud is an additional aspect to consider when it comes to the holiday return season. Fraud is always on the rise and will be again this year, creating an estimated $3.7 Billion in losses for retailers this season. Weighing the scales of customer service and fraud detection is a tricky balancing act. Pull the wrong lever and lose a customer for life.

Finally, the impact of the return experience greatly affects consumer loyalty. The reference to Zappos is always in play when talk of loyalty appears. The Zappos return policy is so wide open, that the low risk purchase decisions give consumers a reason to premeditate future purchases (see Black Friday and Customer Loyalty for more information on the psychology of loyalty purchasing). It has been clearly cited that great customer service practices can lead to marketing and branding opportunities for organizations. Return management is a huge part of the customer service experience.

This year, the return window continues to widen, providing consumers an additional length of time to return products. Shopping for the holidays seems to start earlier and earlier, requiring many retailers to extend the return timeframe until January 31. Extending these timeframes requires companies to staff up and be on the ball with their return management practices in order to maintain top levels of customer service and seamless experiences across all channels. It will be interesting to see the satisfaction results for 2010 since the drop in return experience from 2008 to 2009 was so drastic. With customer service becoming a cornerstone competitive advantage, companies must find a way to turn their return processes into consistent and repeatable outstanding customer experiences.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin possesses a winning track record for transforming small market organizations into large thriving entities. His expertise exists in executive level business strategy for technology and software companies and has been responsible for outcomes that include leading organizational structure and growth, optimizing sales and marketing strategies, and driving the efficiency/effectiveness for entire corporate operations.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here