Not all companies need a returns policy but those dealing in products need to give assurances to their customers regarding quality. A policy which is too rigid will put off honest but genuinely dissatisfied customers, whereas one which is too flexible is open to abuse. There are a variety of reasons why a customer may choose to return a product, for example, the goods were faulty, it was the wrong item or they simply changed their minds. Making your return and exchange processes as simple as possible will help to foster customer loyalty as well ease the administrative burden.

Research

Before writing or updating your returns policy, it is a good idea to find out the terms of your competitors' policies. If you decide that one of your selling points is to have a “generous” returns policy, then make sure it really is. When conducting your research, consider the following questions:

Do your competitors take back all merchandise?

What are the time limits for returning goods?

Is there a special return form or authorisation number?

Is a receipt required?

Is there a restocking fee?

Do they pay for the return shipping, or the customer?

How do they handle the return of gifts?

Do they offer exchanges?

Writing your policy

Use the research you have gathered on your competitors to write a returns policy that is suitable for your business. Although don't feel you have to give the same assurances. Use your common sense and see it as a chance to offer something which will increase sales.

Ensure that your policy:

Remains short and simple to understand

Spells out the exact conditions that customers must meet to return goods e.g. having a receipt, making a return within a certain timeframe

Provides clear instructions on how to return goods, including gifts

Explains how to qualify for exchanges and/or refunds e.g. goods unopened or unused?

Provides contact information and hours of opening

Communicating your policy

Your returns policy should be immediately accessible to your customers. The most common ways of informing customers of your policy is to include it on your website, print it on receipts, display it in your shop windows, or include a printed version in all packages sold or shipped.

Learn from your returns

Ensure that you keep a record of what items are returned and why, this will enable you to:

Identify and monitor customer return trends

Fix any faulty goods

Sharpen your business sales and delivery system

Take steps to ensure future satisfaction