How to Get the Customer Experience Right When Things Go Wrong


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I had a great shopping experience this past weekend that didn’t involve making a purchase. In fact, I canceled my order. However, it left me so impressed with the retailer that I’ll be sure to shop with them again. I ordered a toy for my daughter from Amazon on Friday night, but on Saturday morning, I was shopping in a local store and discovered something similar, but better, on the store’s shelves. Wondering if I could cancel my web order, I logged onto my Amazon account with my smartphone and requested a cancellation. Less than five minutes later, I received confirmation that my order had been canceled with no penalty, and I happily left the local store with my purchase. Amazon lost the sale, but they definitely won my loyalty by making the order cancellation process so simple! You could say that they lost this battle, but it’s not hard to see how they’re winning the war in many ways.

92% of customers will buy something again if returns are easy. (Business2Community).

Customer experience strategies often focus on designing the ideal journey for when everything goes right – when the shopper fits your ideal persona, your expected timeline, etc… However, it’s often the times when things go wrong that become pivotal moments in shaping brand perception in the eyes of the customer. Returns, exchanges, cancellations, even errors can all be prime opportunities for retailers to turn lemons into lemonade and build brand loyalty. In fact, 92% of customers will buy something again if returns are easy (Business2Community).

Another company that impressed me recently is Old Navy. I ordered a pair of leggings for my daughter that arrived a size too small. I called their customer service hotline, which identified me from my mobile number, so I didn’t even need to provide any personal or order information. The customer service representative apologized for their error and shipped me a new pair of leggings along with a coupon for my next order, to apologize for the inconvenience. When I asked what I should do with the pair that was sent in the incorrect size, she answered that I could keep or donate them. The whole call took less than five minutes. I had previously been dreading making a trip to the post office to mail back the incorrectly sized leggings, but instead, I’m telling friends and family (and now, you) about the great return experience! I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Getting the returns experience right is perhaps even more crucial for e-commerce merchants than for physical retailers, since their volume of returns tends to be much higher. In fact, at least 30% of all products ordered online are eventually returned, compared to fewer than 9% bought in brick-and-mortar shops. (Business2Community) This means that making returns as easy as possible is as important as streamlining the checkout experience since hassle-free returns will ease customers’ hesitation about future purchases.
How can retailers simplify the return and exchange process? Accepting returns in stores of products ordered online is a key feature that customers expect from modern omni-channel merchants. When your e-commerce platform is integrated with the store’s point of sale system, this process is easy for both the customer and the retailer. What’s more, by accepting these returns in stores, you are also driving foot traffic, and creating an opportunity for a personal experience with an associate who can seize the moment to sell them something else.

When it comes to returns, exchanges, or order mishaps, retailers need to look at the big picture. Although they may be losing a sale today, they stand to gain much more in customer loyalty in the long term.

Danya Rielly
Danya Rielly is the Digital Marketing Manager at Mi9 Retail. She writes about shopper behavior, customer experience, retail technology, and other trends affecting the retail industry.


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