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Writing a return policy: How to do it, and do it well

Returns and exchanges are all a part of doing business online. In fact, 41% of customers buy an item with the intention to return it. You can’t get away from returns, so you might as well have a policy that your customers understand.

What is a return policy you ask? A return policy is a set of rules and guidelines that your customers follow to return unwanted or ill-fitting merchandise. A return policy tells customers what can and cannot be returned over a certain period of time.

Complicated return policies result in unhappy customers, and unhappy customers mean less profit. Let’s avoid that! While your return policy should have some on-brand flair, there are a few items that can’t be missed:

Time frame

It’s imperative to let your customers know how long they have to return a product. Most companies have a 30-day return policy, but some companies opt for a longer period of 90-days. You’ll also need to be clear about when that time begins and ends. Does it start when the product ships or arrives? Does the product have to be received within 30 days or does a postmark by that date suffice? These questions need to be clearly answered in your policy.

Condition of return

Does the product have to be returned in its original packaging with tags? Some companies allow customers to try out a product first for a certain length of time before they have to decide whether to keep it or not. Depending on your product, this may or may not be a good option for your company.


You also need to be transparent about any costs involved in the return process. Make it clear who is responsible for paying for return shipping — will you be covering the costs or does the customer have to pay for it? In this area, you’ll also have to decide if the customer will be compensated via refund or in-store credit. Customers often prefer a full refund, but it’s up to you to make that decision.

Step-by-step instructions

Finally, your return policy needs to include step-by-step instructions on how to return an item. This includes detailing how a customer should package their return, whether it’s using the product’s original packaging or if the customer can provide their own. And if you do decide to pay for shipping, you have to provide the return label whether that’s via original packaging or somewhere online.

Keep the language clear and simple

To be frank, customers shouldn’t have to have a Ph.D to understand your return policy! Your return policy should be able to be understood by a 5th grader (just with better grammar).

Use words and phrases that your customers can relate to and understand. That doesn’t mean that it should be boring — take this opportunity to showcase your brand flair. If your logo was taken off your return policy and there were only words, your customers should still know that it’s your company. Write with your brand and customers in mind.

Prioritize flexibility always

When writing your return policy, you have to do it through the lens of your customer. Money aside, customers want flexibility. That’s why we made our platform completely customizable and allow for customers to return items in whatever shipping method fits their lifestyle.

As you decide on shipping costs and return timeframe, keep in mind that you are a customer too. Remember that time you bought a sweatshirt and the company’s return policy screwed you over and you couldn’t get your money back? You probably don’t shop there anymore. The returns process is a personal experience and enemies can be made faster than you’d think. Flexibility should always be a top priority.

Promote your policy, everywhere

Your return policy should be easily found on your website, email, and communications to your customers. Remember the 5th grader we talked about? They should be able to find your return policy in less than 30 seconds. Any communication materials your customers receive should have your return policy clearly labeled.

Return doesn’t have to mean refund

You may shudder at the thought of returns, but think of it in a new way: your returns process and policy gives your company the ability to retain customers. This is an opportunity to let your customer service shine!

At Return Rabbit, our returns management solution goes beyond just offering an easy to use experience. We give customers the flexibility they need, while helping you optimize your post-purchase business model. Schedule a demo with us today!

Learn more about how a return policy can make or break the post-purchase experience in our latest whitepaper: Managing the Inevitable: Three Components Of Effective Returns Management.

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