Customers Deserve the Best!
I've noticed a lot of discussion about customer service lately and more specifically, returns. It's a fact, returns are part of running a retail business and as such should be figured into your pricing. This is the easiest and most painless way to cover this cost. I don't know about you, but I almost never will buy from a seller who does not offer a return service. That being said, I have never returned an item that I have purchased on eBay in over 12 years. When the seller has a return policy in place, it eases my mind that they are a professional seller who takes their business seriously. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but nonetheless it is reassurance as a buyer.
Why Don't You Offer a Return Policy?
I've heard all the reasons that for what I'm sure are personal reasons that a seller won't take returns. These range from "I want to get rid of this, I don't want it back" to "I'm not Wal-Mart, Macy's, Target, etc. I'm just an eBay seller". Just an eBay seller is certainly no small thing. It means that you own a business that is yours. It may be small and that is okay too, but no matter what the size, it is a business and should be operated as such, returns are a part of that, a normal part. Another common reason is "I put all the measurements, flaws, great pictures, and a great description. It's not my fault they (the buyer) can't read them." While you may be great at describing your items including the measurements and pictures, that is not a guarantee that the item will work for the buyer. If it's clothing, I honestly don't think most people know what their measurements are. And though they know their size, every brand is different. In fact it's not uncommon for the same brand, style, and size to have discrepancy in measurements. As a buyer you are unable to feel the fabric, tell what the fit is, and in general how it's going to look on you. I use clothing as that category typically has a higher return rate. Electronics is another category that has a higher return rate for various reasons. Sometimes it is as simple as the buyer doesn't know how to operate something. A lot of times a message or even a phone call if the circumstance indicates that is the best way to handle it can resolve the issue and prevent the return.
But even if it doesn't, taking a return shouldn't be painful. The reality is most returns will be initiated within the first week that the buyer receives the item. Starting in fall of 2015 eBay has made it simple to set up your return policy and take care of all of your return requests directly on eBay, including providing a return label to the buyer. The process is simple for both the seller and the buyer. eBay follows the policy that you have set up. If you want the buyer to pay for returns, you state that in your return instructions. Keep in mind that if an item is damaged or significantly not as described, then you, the seller are responsible for return shipping. You can read the full policy here http://pages.ebay.com/sellerinformation/returns-on-ebay/index.html#faq=faq-7 . This page has all the necessary information and walks you through setting up your policy and the entire flow of the process from start to finish.
When you accept returns, your buyers have a lot more trust in you! More trust translates to more sales. It hasn't been my experience that it leads to more returns, in fact quite the opposite. My belief is that you actually protect yourself by setting your own return policy versus the buyer having to jump through hoops and ultimately opening a case. Which would you rather have, a return that you will list again and sell again or a case opened? It seems pretty straightforward to me.
But now starting on May 1, 2016 I have to offer a 30-day return policy if I want to maintain my TRS status.
This is a true statement and one that you should have no concern over. Personally I've offered 30-day returns for a couple of years now and the reality is that my return rate dropped when I increased the time from 14 days to 30 days. In fact my returns dropped from an average of two a year to about 1.4 per year. And I sell a variety of items that include clothing and collectibles. With collectibles I think it is fair to day that buyers know what they are looking for and I can't actually remember any collectibles that I have ever had returned. Within this year I will be changing my return policy to 60 days on everything except my consignment items. Why not? If the rate went down when I went from 14 to 30 days, it might just drop lower going to 60 days. For sure it will give my buyers a reason to shop with me and feel comfortable.
Think about how you want to handle this going forward. If you don't offer returns seriously consider setting up a return policy. Give your customers the security of knowing that they can return an item if they need to, they don't have to "fight" or go through any hassles in order to do so. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised when you see a difference in your sales. If you offer a 14-day return and are concerned about changing to 30 days, get out your calculator and find out exactly what your percentage of returns has been, my guess is it is less than 2% (which is somewhat of a normal percentage). Figure out how to cover your returns by spreading them over all of your listings, and take the plunge to a longer return time. See if your return rate doesn't actually decrease while sales could even increase.
Make your customers feel good about shopping with you! Treat them exactly as you would expect to be treated by any online retailer. Hassle-free is definitely the best way to be. Offer customer service and see how your customers show their loyalty by returning to you on a regular basis.