The customer is always right, sometimes
Photo by Samsung Memory on Unsplash
You need to hear this.
No one is always right. Not your significant other and not your customer. We use the adage not because it is true, but in order to remind us that retailers and their shoppers have an asynchronous relationship.
The retailer needs to sell and wants the shopper to buy.
The retailer needs to sell and wants the shopper to buy more.
The retailer needs to sell and wants the shopper to buy even more.
Retail talks about loyalty, but what we mean is ongoing conversion. The shopper being right is a stark reminder that we need to nurture, bubble wrap, sustain and grow this relationship. So even if the customer is wrong, we tip the scales to keep them happy.
Being Right with Returns
On the flip side of the conversion process is the returns (that statement in itself isn’t wholly true, but we can discuss that another time). Just like in the stage of purchase, we are reminded that the consumer is always right. They are right to drive the return when they want, how they want. They are right to expect – nay demand – a super easy and super convenient process. Because the customer is always right.
The returns process is geared to be as smooth and seamless as possible. Not to rile any feathers. Certainly not to disenchant any potential new purchase. But herein lies the problem, by making returns only driven by the convenience and ease of use of the customer, the impact of this is way bigger than we think. The inefficiency, costliness and negative effect on the environment, are substantial enough to give a pause and think whether we are correct to enable the “not rightness” of the customer.
How Might We Let the Customer be Right, and Still do the Right Thing?
So how do we give the best customer journey, but let the retailer maintain the upper hand in controlling an all-around optimal outcome? It may come as a surprise to you that it can actually be done quite easily, using solutions like OtailO. These solutions focus on several pillars to ensure a win-win situation for all.
Present the easiest workflow for the consumer but enable dynamic routing to ensure that each returns gets to where you want it to go. At OtailO we call this the routing to the next best shelf. We let AI decide for each return where the most profit optimal location is. Perhaps its back at the DC, or perhaps the probability of resale is so low that the engine will determine that it’s best to donate this item.
If the next best shelf for a returned purchase is resale, and you know that you need to get that return back to the store as soon as possible, it makes a whole lot of sense to offer a reward, promotion or benefit of sorts to expedite the return. This is one specific example. In general, acknowledging and motivating customers is a sure way to engender loyalty. This is true in the returns process, where the brand’s stock has – for whatever reason – been rejected. We want to validate that return, without judgement and to send a clear message that while it didn’t work out this time, next time it will. Get to your desired consumer behavior by influencing and encouraging the outcome that makes the most sense for you.
Maintain the upper hand
Your business logic and decision-making criteria are paramount to running an efficient business. Your returns management solution should be driven by these values and attributes. How the system does it for you must be transparent and seamless, both for your sake (why should you work hard) and for the sake of your customer. When your KPIs – like cost reduction, velocity and customer satisfaction are met, you finally are positioned to control returns and not to let them control you.
Being Right and Correct is Possible
When a customer initiates a return, they are wholly motivated to get an exchange or their money back. And they are right. Because the customer is always right. We should go the extra mile to ensure the customer journey is a solid and friendly one. But a journey can still be solid and friendly – AND logical and optimal. If your returns solution only focuses on the customer journey, it misses out on all the relevant and logical destinations. Let your returns management solution go the extra mile for the first mile of the return, for you and your customer. So, even if the customer is always right, your returns solution can correct the course of the return and make it even better.