SMEs often struggle to compete on price, so customer service is an area where many try to excel. It is the personal contact, often with the business owner, that can give an SME the edge in a consumer’s mind.
Large organisations, such as Amazon, have built an expectation that consumers should be able to return product relatively easily and they have the infrastructure to support this. However, an SME with a lot of customers who return regularly will have to manage the resources required carefully, as being a smaller organisation, they may struggle if they haven’t built in capacity to handle fluctuations in the level of returns [why?]
A big part of this is ensuring that they have robust agreements on returns with their suppliers. This should include a commitment to compensate the SME for all costs (including the cost of the product, transport, labour, admin etc) associated with the return of products that they have supplied, enabling the SME to act quickly in the full knowledge that they will be fairly compensated by their supplier [which means?]
Have a clearly communicated returns policy
They really need to have a clearly communicated returns policy – well researched and supported by the resources required to deliver it – that can be executed well without placing too much of a burden on the business. As long as SMEs do their research and plan for the expected level of returns, but also add the ‘personal touch’ they should be able to compete in this area. A great example of this (although it won’t be practical every time) is if the owner or manager can find time to actually phone the consumer directly to apologise for the issue and ensure that the return was handled well by his people. [how might they plan to do that? Any examples?]
Follow the policy and get it right first time
If businesses don’t get this right, there is a big danger of adverse publicity that can be shared quickly on social media. More of the scarce resources will also be taken up if the return is not handled correctly. How this is done will vary, depending on the product type and method of delivery or collection, but it must be made as easy as possible for the consumer and the process of refund or replacement should be quick and simple. [how do you handle a return correctly?], so the focus must be on following the policy and getting it right first time. This will also help them to manage the small group of people who will try to take advantage by attempting to make unjustified or even fraudulent returns.
Implement correct systems, procedures and culture
Smart SMEs will therefore focus on implementing the correct systems, procedures and culture, which ultimately means that everyone in the organisation puts the customer first and knows that this is one area that can have a significant impact of their company’s reputation. Returns also require input from all key areas of the company (finance, operations, marketing, sales) and a consistent ‘customer first’ culture throughout the organisation will help the company to get this right first time [such as?] . It must form part of their overall strategy. If they do this, there is an added benefit in that if correctly managed and logged, feedback from returns can be analysed and used to assist an SME in improving their product and service.
If you need further help settinng your returns policy, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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