Few things keep retailers up at night as much as merchandise returns. That’s because every return that rolls in diminishes your bottom line and shrinks profit margins. Retailers may have seen a record-breaking $280 billion in global online spend during Cyber Week, but they know that 18% of merchandise will likely be returned once the season is over. Every January, brands brace for post-holiday retail returns.
So, what can you do to help cut your losses? Start by equipping your service agents with tools that enable speedy, personalized experiences. With the right resources at their fingertips, service agents have the power to mitigate loss, save sales, and turn every return into an opportunity. Here’s how.
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Give agents a 360-degree view of each customer
Customers want to feel seen and heard — and this is especially true when it comes to initiating a return. A holistic view of the customer is key to a painless, empathetic retail-returns process.
When cross-functional teams work from a single source of truth, the customer benefits through seamless interactions, faster service, and an experience that makes them feel understood. However, 54% of customers say they generally feel like sales, service, and marketing teams don’t share information with each other.
To change this, equip service agents with a connected platform and a console where they can see the entire customer journey in one snapshot. This gives them context for the return at hand and makes communication easier.
When a customer’s chat history, account details, and order information are all visible in one dashboard, agents are also more likely to uncover new opportunities for cross-selling or find other ways to turn returns around.
Speed up service and reduce costs with collaborative commerce
All customers have experienced it: waiting on hold, frustrated, while a service agent processes a return at the speed of a snail. If customers could peek behind the curtain, however, they’d likely see the agent scrambling to get an approval from another team member, asking questions on their behalf, or tracking down data to get more insight into their order.
With collaborative commerce tools like Slack, this scenario becomes a lot simpler and faster for both the service agent and the customer. Now, the information the agent needs is readily available instead of siloed on another team’s platform. Bringing different systems together speeds up agent response time and lets them seamlessly handle returns without ever leaving their ticketing tool. This helps reduce call length and speed up resolutions — a major benefit when you consider that the average 3-4 minute direct consumer call costs a retailer up to $5.60. Every second you can shave off a returns-related call puts money back in your pocket.
Retailers can leverage technology to intelligently surface relevant messages, files, channels, and people. With these collaborative commerce tools in hand, the agent becomes a trusted guide for the customer’s retail-return experience rather than an intermediary.
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Mitigate loss and maximize revenue with retail-returns reporting
Returns reporting is one of the most valuable tools retailers have to combat boomerang products and dissatisfied customers. Making this a seamless part of the process is the linchpin of a fruitful feedback loop. Returns reporting offers actionable insights to help improve return rates and maximize revenue. With customizable “reason codes” for each returned item, you can track patterns over time and take steps to mitigate loss.
Ultimately, this helps your team understand why customers are returning things in the first place and gives you a roadmap for how to address specific issues. If you find that a particular item has a much higher return rate than others in your inventory, reason codes can help you determine whether to contact the supplier, adjust your workflow, or shift course in another way.
This becomes particularly important for high-ticket items — especially when they are bulky and costly to return. For example, consider a home goods company that sells smart appliances. If service agents track a pattern of “difficult installation” as the main reason for returns, the retailer can disable self-service returns for the item. Now, an agent can step in to help guide the installation process and improve the setup experience.
Empower service agents to build brand loyalty
A whopping 89% of consumers are less likely to buy from a retailer following a bad return experience, while 97% would likely buy again after a positive one. When service agents have the right tools in their arsenal to deliver exceptional experiences, the payoff is much more than cost savings — it’s brand loyalty and customer trust. You worked hard to acquire customers during the holiday shopping season. A retail-returns strategy that empowers your service agents will help you retain them.
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