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Financial Solutions
15 Aug 2018

Empathy in e-commerce: how online retailers retain their customers in the long term with the right returns process

Customer service begins with the product – not when the Customer Service Agent picks up the phone

There are hardly any customers who regularly shop online but who have never returned the product or goods. Perhaps we imagined the watch differently, maybe the t-shirt is one size too small – there are many reasons for making returns, but retailers always face the same problems: One the one hand, they must fear that the returned goods will sit on the shelf, and on the other, the relationship with the consumer is tested.

Often, customers have long sent back their goods but still receive a payment reminder because the returns have not yet been posted. Logical consequence: the relationship between the retailer and their end customer suffers, and in the worst case so much so that the customer looks for alternatives. This costs companies dearly, as keeping a customer is much cheaper than acquiring a new customer.

The two problems described above occur in all industries, and the solution is becoming a mammoth task for more and more companies. These are not just my personal impressions, but the figures show it too: According to a current ECC payment study, which we at Arvato Financial Solutions commissioned, 19 percent of the retailers surveyed have a returns rate of more than 40 percent. In the fashion sector, an average of every second item is returned. From the calls and e-mails we receive at customer service, a relevant proportion concern the handling of returns, and in most cases customers are asking why they are receiving a payment reminder even though they returned the goods two weeks prior

Our entire team regularly takes the time to speak with our Customer Service Agents about the concerns and problems of our customers. We always tell new colleagues two things: you must tackle your task enthusiastically and empathically. The fact that we are enthusiastic and are passionate about our idea and solution is a given, but some have a little difficulty with the empathy. “How do I show the customer this empathy?” – that is the question I am often asked, not only by my colleagues but also often by retailers.

Of course there is never one single answer, but in general there is one thing we can make clear: empathy is not only the capacity but above all the willingness to empathize with the attitudes and problems of other people – and this is precisely what makes a good partner. We at AfterPay, the flexible pay-after-delivery solution by Arvato Financial Solutions, do not want to put the emphasis on our brand; we would much rather optimize our services and our product for the benefit of the end customer and therefore also the retailer.

The work of our colleagues in Customer Service is tremendously important, but excellent customer service begins with the product. Let’s take as an example returns management, which we recently optimized on the basis of feedback: customers can now immediately flag which items they will keep and which they would like to return. We as the payment partner use this information in order to update the invoice accordingly and as such automatically avoid the sending of unnecessary payment reminders.

Such an empathetic returns process aligned with the problems of the customer reinforces the customer relationship in the long term and also benefits the online retailers, who receive fewer enquiries and can therefore concentrate on their core business – a win-win situation for all those involved.

If you would like to learn more about AfterPay, you can contact us by e-mail or ask for a no-obligation quote.

Sebastian Kespohl

Managing Director | AfterPay Germany

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