What can you learn from your returns?

Most B2B marketers ignore their returns.   They are viewed as being part of the business.  Nobody likes them or wants them but you must deal with them.  So, why not deal with them the best way possible?

I have a client with a Returns Manager who LOVES returns as she is charged with using returns to improve the business.   She also understands that how you handle a return can lose a customer….or create a loyal customer for life.

Here is how she approaches her job.

  • Each return is an opportunity to learn something or retain a customer.   She calls each one, confirms the return, apologizes, probes for useful information and re-sells the customer.  Often a replacement order is taken during that call.
  • When inherent problems are found with the product, its catalog presentation, the way the rep sold it, packaging/shipping damage or any other issue details are meticulously summarized in order to separate the one time occurrences from trends.  Trends are quickly reported and future problems averted.
  • Returns merchandise is rehabilitated or marked for return to vendor.
  • Each customer who returns an item automatically receives a written apology and a $10 gift certificate good on their next order.
  • Customer retention is measured for all customers who experienced a return separate from those who didn’t and, not surprising, those with a favorable return experience have greater retention.
  • Before products are selected, the “returns lady” gets a vote.  If the product has inherent return problems like confusing pack size or poor packaging, the returns lady spots it (often by throwing the packaged product across the warehouse to see how it fares.)  before the product is sold.   She also makes suggestions to improve catalog presentation, copy and on-line descriptions/uses too. 
  • As a result, return transactions have been falling and customer retention post-returns has been increasing.

Does your company have a respected returns maven?  It should.   Comments or questions?  Email me at tjukes@b2bdmi.com.

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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