Part 19: Handling Product Returns
Despite the best intentions of you, your customer, your distributor and their shipping carrier, you will occasionally have to deal with product returns.
Letís go over the main reasons for product returns, and what you should do about them.
1.) Factory Damage
Once in a while, a customer will buy a product from you, only to discover that it is defective. This happens whether your store is on the Internet, or in a quaint little brownstone building on the corner of Main and Maple streets.
When a product arrives with a factory defect or damage, it is your distributorís responsibility. However, YOU need to be the conduit between the customer and the distributor to get the situation resolved. Hereís how it works:
Your customer buys a product from you, and it arrives broken or somehow defective.
Your customer emails you, and asks what they should do about it.
You contact your distributor, tell them that order number XXX was a defective product. Ask them for an RMA number (Return Merchandise Authorization). Then ask them to set up a UPS Call Tag. This means that they need to send UPS to pick up the item and return it to the distributor, at no shipping cost to you or the customer.
You email the customer back, and give them the RA number. Ask them to write it on the original box that the product came in. Tell them that UPS will pick up the defective product.
Depending on how your distributor works, they will either send a replacement out immediately (at no shipping cost to you or the customer) or they will send one out when the broken one is returned. Both methods are valid.
Thatís itÖnew product, happy customer, no shipping costs.
2.) Shipping Damage
Very rarely, a product will be damaged in shipping. If this happens, the customer will email you and tell you so. You need to let the customer know that they have to call the shipper (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.) and notify THEM. They all have 800 numbers for this purpose, and you should have them available. As I said, this is very rare, in fact it has NEVER happened to us. However, in this situation, the customer contacts the shipper, and follows their instructions for rectifying the situation. If you want to provide some really excellent customer service, get the information from the customer, and place the call yourself.
3.) ďThis Hair Dryer just does NOT match my bathroom wallpaper!Ē
Sigh! Yes, theyíre out there. Picky people, fussy people, or people who just didnít choose the right product for their needs. You need to have a return policy for these dissatisfied customers as well, although you need to make sure you donít lose any money on the return. Hereís how we do it on our retail sites: we offer to refund any purchase within 10 days of customer receipt for any reason, MINUS return shipping and a 15% restocking fee.
Your customer contacts you, and wants to return a product.
As long as itís within your return policy period, you contact your distributor and obtain an RA (Return Authorization) number. Your distributor will have no problem with this, as long as itís within THEIR return period, which is usually 30 days.
You inform the customer that they should write the RA number on the outside of the original box. They must pack the product in the original box, with all itís manuals, accessories, and original packing materials.
The customer then needs to send the product back to your DISTRIBUTOR, not you. Provide them with the distributorís return address. Many distributors keep blind PO addresses for just this purpose, so that your customer never knows where the product really came from. The CUSTOMER must pay for return shipping.
When the distributor informs you that the item has been returned in the proper condition, you then refund your customerís credit card their full purchase price MINUS your 10% restocking fee. Your restocking fee may vary, but you need to do it, because your distributor is going to charge YOU a restocking fee. As I said, you have to do this in such a way that you donít lose any money.
Those are the basics; the main reasons you may have to deal with a product return. It does not happen often, but itís best to be prepared.
Ready to wrap this up? One more to go; Part 20: Setup Timeline