Refund: one of those dreaded words eCommerce store owners don’t want to hear. But when you’re running an online store, customer disputes are, unfortunately, part of the game. And therefore have an intricate part to play in after-sale service, which can either turn a shopper into a one-time spender or a loyal customer.

Recently I did a gift online shop and the store in question’s after-sale service was a disaster from beginning to end. First, the delivery was four days late and it took two days to return an email regarding this issue. When I did get ahold of them eventually, through Twitter, no one in their customer service seemed to know where my order was. When it did eventually come, some things were missing from the order and I then had to request a refund. With the two-day delay in responses, this turned into a frustrating affair and although I got my refund, I will never shop with them online again.

Not because they missed an item; not even because the delivery was late; but because their after-sale service and the way they handled my refund was far too frustrating.

So as an online store, how do you handle refunds in a way that ensures you are not refunding unnecessarily, but also when you are, to do so without losing customers?

The first and most important step in combating refunds or ensuring you can handle them correctly is to have a clear, visible return policy on your site. A good return policy will ensure that you:

  • Have notified your customers of your policy before they purchase, and therefore help eliminate excess queries.
  • Map out your customer experience and are able to deal with queries as quickly as possible.
  • Have outlined the conditions by which a product can be returned, how long after receiving do they have to return a product, and the acceptable reasons by which a product can be returned.

Some examples of awesome eCommerce policies include the likes of Zappos and Nordstrom.

BigCommerce’s return and exchange policy guideline is a good place to start.

The thing to remember is that no matter how extensive and clear your returns policy is, or how good your products are, refunds are part of the eCommerce game. How many times have you returned something from your local H&M or Home Depot because you bought the wrong thing/type/size? The trick here is to be able to manage refunds quickly, efficiently and with as minimal brand damage as possible.

There are two main types of refunds: customer refund requests and forced refunds. In this week’s eCommerce tips guide, we will walk you through how to handle each type.

Marie Forleo, entrepreneur and philanthropist, was asked how she handles refunds and this video sums up all these points perfectly. In the video she highlights these 6 points:

Don’t Take Refunds Personally

As we mentioned in the intro, refunds happen, and taking them personally will only lead you to getting defensive. Getting defensive will hurt your customer service game in a big way and only exaggerate the process. You can help keep things clear by outlining your return policy in full and having very clear lines.

Handle Refunds Quickly Efficiently and Courteously

When you receive a Facebook message, comment or email, thank them for getting in touch and listen to them without getting defensive. Mistakes happen; the best way to handle them is to acknowledge the mistake and do everything you can to help. If your customer is entitled to a refund, return their money with a smile and thank them for giving your products/online store a try. There is nothing worse for a customer than having to deal with a company whose after-sale service is lacking, and the chances of me…