Updated: Jan 2, 2020

It is easy to get lost in all the excitement that comes with growing a business. When sales are up, we often find ourselves busy attending to various customer requests. The requests vary from customer service questions to marketing campaigns and other multiple strategies. At such a rate, everything feels great.

A single request from a customer to make a return is often all it takes to question one's method. Under normal circumstances, returning a product should not be a problem. However, in dropshipping returns are much harder as suppliers directly send their products to the customer.

Also, the process of making a return is never easy on all parties. It is not strange that the supplier, customer and you are upset by the situation. The way a return request is handled could be the difference between having a long-term client or an angry customer. It is a process that is capable of either promoting your brand or damaging it.

As it relates to fulfilling return requests, there are two significant areas of focus.

1. How to plan for returns before they happen?

2. How to handle return requests when they happen?

If you have some return request and you are wondering how best to handle them. Then skip to other part of the series. First, it is important to approach return requests with the proper mindset. Below are a few questions to help;

• When was your last return request and how did you feel?

• How did your business solve the request and your opinion on the service?

• Would you be a return customer based on the service?

Always remember that it is human nature to seek fair treatment and in most cases people reciprocate goodwill. Stick to this mantra and you will be okay. Content

1. Preparing for Returns o Know Your Suppliers Return Policy o Create a Return Policy to Match Your Suppliers’

2. Handling the Return Process o Common Return Reasons o Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem o Determine Whether a Return is Necessary

o Have the Customer Return the Item to You – At Least the First Time

o The Actual Return Process

Preparing for Returns

The first solution is preparation. Before you venture into the world of dropshipping, it is paramount that you understand the policies of your suppliers. Nevertheless, if you have your business set up already, then we advise that you revisit the supplier's policies and review any new changes.

Know your Suppliers Return Policy

Every supplier is different and will have different policies. Therefore, you must take the time to know each supplier’s policy. Your return policy will heavily depend on your supplier as they ship their products directly to the customer. Below are some few things to watch for when looking at policies.

• Restocking fees • The period of grace to return each of their product after the sale. • Who is responsible for the shipping fees on return products. • Do false orders qualify for returns? • How they process the return and the time it takes.

Ensure to have this information on every supplier you deal with in your business. Creating Your Return Policies

There is no need to plagiarize your supplier’s policy. However, you can use their policies as the foundation for yours. Regardless, never go beyond their timeframe for returning goods. For example, if their return gives a window of 30 days, do not recommend beyond that to your customers. The following tips will help guide you;

• It is better to give your customers 20-25 days to return, especially if your supplier’s window is 30 days. It will allow you to account for delays or any other unforeseen incidents

• Incorporate all of your supplier’s policies into your policies, especially when dealing with multiple suppliers. For example, there are two products from two separate suppliers with return windows of 20 days and 14 days, respectively. You can decide to have separate return days for each or have one like 10 days that will cover both products.

• Never post your address as a location for return products. The alternative is always to have your customers contact you for more details on how to return the product. That way, you can send them the appropriate return address of the supplier.

• Only accept return products that have tracking numbers. That way, you safeguard your business from allegations of lost items. With the tracking number, you know where the product is at any given time.

Lastly, ensure to state in your policy that without a tracking number, the customer cannot return the product.

Should you require help in developing your return policy, Shopify has a list of tips to help you. Although, the tip is general and isn’t specific to dropshippers. In the end, always know your supplier’s policy and incorporate them into yours while implementing some of the tips above. Handling the Return Process

After creating a return policy, the next step is to figure out your process of handling a request to return a product. First, to handle all the return request, you have to understand the reason for the return. Through understanding, you can both improve your process as well as avoid future return requests.

Common Reasons for Returns

Below are some the reason customers tend to return products;

1. The mistakenly placed an order (i.e. Wrong Polo Size): It is not uncommon to order the wrong size when shopping online. It is either it is too big or too small, and most people end up having to return them. In such a scenario, it is rare to see a supplier take the burden of a return. While a few suppliers won’t mind, it all depends on the supplier’s policy. We recommend that for such cases that you offer the option for return to help boost your customer service. The reason being that it is a common mistake, and you can easily ask the customer to cover the shipping fees on the item.

2. Items don’t match the description: There two major reasons for such a mistake in a client’s order.

1. You made a mistake on the product listing.

2. The supplier made a mistake with the product listing

Firstly, once this is the reason for the return, you must figure out who made a mistake. There is a high chance you are responsible for the error if you create listings manually. The suppliers are most likely at fault should they give you a direct data feed. Regardless of whose fault it is, you must take responsibility for the mistake. Satisfying your customer should be the priority. Think like a customer whose order was replaced, and the business is refusing to take responsibility. More often than not, it is not a recipe for repeat business. If the supplier is to blame, then hopefully they are will to either replace the item or offer a refund. If there is no choice like that, then it is time to start seeking new suppliers. Always be diplomatic when addressing the supplier about the mistake because it is most likely a rare case of error. However, should that supplier continue to make such mistakes, then you need a new supplier.

3. Defective or damaged item: Returns of this nature are rare, especially if you have a great supplier. Nevertheless, when they happen, you should endeavour to cover all costs, including shipping for your customer. Also, try to have your customers email you a return label. Likewise, the process should be made as easy as possible. Handling returns appropriately is a great way to improve customer relationship.

Focus on Solutions not Problems Most of your customers do not care for the meaning of dropshipping. They don’t want to know who is to blame; they care about a solution to their request. They either want a replacement or a refund on the item they purchase.

It is better to apologize for any error to the customer then take actions towards solving their problem as quickly as you can. In these scenarios, actions do more good than words.

Reports have shown that word of mouth marketing is one of the best free and effective tools for reaching new audiences, Therefore, to get your customers to advocate for you, provide them with great customer service.

Determine when Return are Necessary Sometimes, the product a customer is trying to return is not worth the trouble of shipping it back. For example, a customer that intends to purchase an iphone 4 charger but ends up with an iphone 5 charger. Because the charge is not a high-cost item, it is not worth having a customer ship it back. A better alternative is to have the customer keep the wrong charger and then send them a new charger that matches their order.

Have Customers Return the Item to you In the dropshipping industry, it is best to get a hands-on experience on how returns work. One of the best ways to achieve this is to have the customers return the item to you rather than the supplier. Below are three reasons to adopt this approach;

• It keeps the supplier honest: To validate the condition of the item that the customer purchased, and to prevent the supplier from making excuses.

• It keeps the process smooth: By handling the return process yourself, you get to control the process and make sure that everything goes right.

• You experience the return process: If it is your first experience, then it is an opportunity to see how your supplier responds to return request. Likewise, you get to see how the request is handled and you to learn more.

The Return Process Itself For first timers that have no idea how return process works. Below are a few insights into how the return process works.

1. The customer requests a return on an item.

You Should: Acknowledge the request, find out why the customer wants to return the item, contact the supplier and the ask for an RMA (Request Merchandise Authorization) number. Next step is to apologize to the customer and assure them that you will fix the problem regardless of who is at fault.

2. The supplier decides to honour the return request.

You Should: If the customer is going to be making the return straight to the supplier, then provide them with the RMA and the return address. Depending on the return policy of the supplier, you might have to RMA number on the return shipping label rather than the packing or shipping box. Remind your customers to buy a tracking number if they are responsible for shipping.

3. The Package arrives.

You should: If the package was delivered to you, then you should check for damages and take pictures as proof for your supplier, then ship it to the supplier. However, if the package was sent to the supplier, then you should try to maintain frequent contact with the supplier to know when the package gets to the warehouse. Lastly, try to get a refund or have them replace the item.

4. The customer gets a refund or a replacement.

You Should: Reach out to the customer via email to ensure that they received the goods and that it is in good condition. Alternatively, if the request was for a refund, then send them a refund and a mail to make sure they got it.

We hope that this guide has opened your eyes to the realities of handling dropshipping return returns and process. If the answer is yes, then kindly share with this information with other store owners to help as many people navigate return requests.

We would love to hear from you and look forward to hearing your stories and experiences with dealing with return request. Was it Good or Bad? Kindly share your opinions in the comment section.

In conclusion, always remember that great customer service is what separates successful stores from the less fortunate stores. Start to view return as an opportunity to impress your customers with the way you solve problems. While a customer might not remember a particular purchase they made at your store, they will never forget how your business treated when they had issues. Trust us; they tend to share their feeling on how they were treated with friends and family.

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