An exchange policy can be one of the trickiest things to get right as a business owner. As the one running the business, you theoretically don’t ever want to accept any previously sold merchandise, and you’re certainly not interested in giving away money you already had to work hard for. The only true benefit of a good exchange policy is that if you do it well, you have the opportunity to turn a one-time shopper into a repeat customer.
Related: How your return policies can create trust and customer satisfaction
But what exactly goes into a exchange policy, and how can you be sure you do everything in your power to ensure returns go smoothly?
7 elements of a good exchange policy
Make sure to include these seven things in the exchange policy listed on your website and you’ll be on the right track to ensuring that the buyer who isn’t in love with whatever they received at least considers trying your company once again.
A time period.
What customers will receive.
Simple, gentle language.
Fail to heed this advice and you will easily lose customers who simply want to exchange something.
1. A time period
First and foremost, your online store needs to spell out clear as day how long a customer has to return or exchange something they have decided against keeping. This is one of the first details savvy shoppers look for when they’re thinking of making a purchase (especially a large one), and it is smart to make it the first item they see when they look at your exchange policy.
How long this time period is depends on what the product is and what business you are in. Typically, longer stretches of time are more customer-friendly, though they’re not always ideal for the business.
2. What customers will receive
Most companies offer customers their full money back in the form they paid when they return a product — and it’s what most shoppers expect. While it has now become the norm, a full return is not always feasible for some businesses.
Whatever your company is planning to offer a customer when they decide to send something back — cash, store credit, another piece of merchandise (which is always the case with an exchange) or potentially something else — it needs to be very clear to the buyer.
One of the only things that would be worse than not giving a customer what they wanted when it comes to a refund or exchange is forcing them into a terrible situation because the policy was hidden.
3. Free shipping
Like a full refund of someone’s money or an easy, even exchange, offering free shipping for these types of transactions simply isn’t financially possible for some companies, despite the benefits that both sides can reap from the decision. If customers know there is no risk associated with purchasing an item (meaning they won’t have to pay for having made a mistake), they’ll be more likely to spend more money overall.
Free shipping should be a part of your exchange policy.
If at first it seems like it might be too costly, see if there’s any way to subsidize it, as it will likely end up working in your favor. Shipping is a big part of any online business, and at the end of the day you’re going to have to eat a lot of those costs.
Related: How to offer free shipping without hurting your bottom line
4. Contact information
You might believe your exchange policy is beautifully written and that there is simply no way anybody could have any questions after reading through it … but you’d be wrong.
No matter how perfectly you highlight the most important items or outline the terms, there are going to be questions, and probably a lot of them.
Sometimes it will be because you actually did miss something, but you’ll see that a lot of people simply won’t read all the way through. Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it simply a fact you will have to deal with? Also yes.
Provide an email address, a phone number, or at least a form where people can fill out their information and explain their issue. The first two options are preferred over the last one, but anything is better than nothing.
Related: Why it’s time to revisit and revamp your website contact page
Again, you might think you’ve answered every possible question in your exchange policy, but there are bound to be more. In addition to the policy itself, include a list of frequently asked questions nearby, as some people prefer to see the information they need provided in this format.
You can link to the FAQ page and suggest that people look at it before contacting your organization, or potentially even make it mandatory before they submit their query (though that can be a bit annoying to those who truly do need something answered by a real person).
As questions begin to come in over time, add the ones that pop up frequently to this page and you might save yourself some time in the future.
6. Simple, gentle language
When it comes to an exchange policy, simpler is always better, and that especially applies to the language you use.
You might want to come off as upscale or intelligent, but be wary of choosing words that are too specific, too complicated or which might confuse those who speak other languages.
Don’t be too demanding, and keep it calm, sweet and straightforward. Hopefully a pleasant tone will make customers feel at ease when they want to send something back or ask a question.
If your exchange policy isn’t new and you have been accepting returns for some time now, chances are you might have heard from some of your former customers about their experience. Granted, much of this correspondence might skew negative, as people tend to go out of their way to reach out when they have a complaint. But you will likely also receive some praise as well. Highlight these good experiences near your exchange policy to show that you know how to rectify a situation.
Related: How to develop customer testimonials for your eCommerce site
To recap, be sure to include these seven elements in your policy:
- Outline the time period for when you can accept exchanges.
- Provide a clear explanation of what the customer will receive when they exchange the product.
- Strongly consider offering free shipping for returns.
- Provide your contact information in case the customer has questions about any aspect of the exchange policy (or anything else).
- Include an FAQ page with more detailed information.
- Use simple, gentle language when explaining your exchange policy on your website.
- Offer testimonials from customers who have been satisfied with their exchange experience.
An exchange policy that includes these core elements can both help your business run more smoothly and foster customer loyalty.
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