Skip to Content
Commerce

The Key To Painless Retail Returns: Equip Your Service Agents

Returns are a friction point for customers and retailers. Here are some tips to make the experience smoother.

Equip service agents with a platform and a console where they can see the entire customer journey in one snapshot. This gives them context for the return at hand and makes communication easier. [kupicoo / Getty Images]

Few things keep retailers up at night as much as merchandise returns. The average retailer incurs $106 million in returns for every $1 billion in sales, according to one report. During 2021’s Cyber Week alone, global online spend reached $275 billion. That’s an estimated $29 billion expected in returns from just one week.

Brands employ a wide range of strategies to help cut their losses — and they’re usually kicked into high gear after the holidays. Some focus on quality control and work to ensure accurate depictions of their products. Others develop a robust customer feedback loop. And whenever possible, brands implement self-service returns. 

But there will inevitably be cases where service teams need to step in. When that happens, one common denominator will ensure success: equipping service agents with the right tools for the job. Here’s what they’ll need to create a seamless experience for painless retail returns.

Collaborative commerce speeds up service

We’ve all experienced waiting on hold, frustrated, for a service agent to process our return as we wondered what was happening on the other end. If customers could peek behind the curtain, they would likely see the agent scrambling to get an approval from another team member, asking questions on their behalf, or tracking down data to get more insight into their order. 

With collaborative commerce tools like Slack, this scenario becomes a lot simpler, and faster, for both the service agent and the customer. Now, the information the agent needs is at their fingertips instead of siloed on another team’s platform. Bringing different systems together speeds up agent response time and allows them to seamlessly handle returns without ever leaving their ticketing tool. 

Retailers can leverage technology to intelligently surface relevant messages, files, channels, and people. With these collaborative commerce tools in hand, the agent becomes a trusted guide for the customer’s return experience rather than an intermediary.

Customers want to feel seen and heard — and this is especially true when it comes to initiating a return.

Give agents a 360-degree view of each customer 

Customers want to feel seen and heard — and this is especially true when it comes to initiating a return. A holistic view of the customer is key to a painless retail returns process. When cross-functional teams work from a single source of truth, the customer benefits through seamless interactions, faster service, and an experience that makes them feel understood. However, 54% of customers say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.

To change this, equip service agents with a platform and a console where they can see the entire customer journey in one snapshot. This gives them context for the return at hand and makes communication easier. When a customer’s chat history, account details, and order information are all visible in one dashboard, agents are also more likely to uncover new opportunities for cross-selling or find other ways to turn returns around. 

Turn insights into action with returns reporting 

Returns reporting is one of the most valuable tools retailers have to combat boomerang products and dissatisfied customers. Making this a seamless part of the process is the linchpin of a fruitful feedback loop, and it offers actionable insights to help improve return rates. With customizable “reason codes” for each returned item, you can track patterns over time. 

Ultimately, this helps your team understand why customers are returning things in the first place and gives you a roadmap for how to address specific issues. If you find that a particular item has a much higher return rate than others in your inventory, reason codes can help you determine whether to contact the supplier, adjust your workflow, or shift course in another way.

When service agents have the right tools in their arsenal to deliver exceptional return experiences, the payoff is much more than cost savings — it’s brand loyalty and customer trust. 

This becomes particularly important for high-ticket items — especially when they are bulky and costly to return. For example, consider a home goods company that sells smart appliances. If service agents track a pattern of “difficult installation” as the main reason for returns, the retailer can disable self-service returns for the item. Now, an agent can step in to help guide the installation process and improve the setup experience. 

Empower service agents to build brand loyalty

According to one study, more than three-fourths of shoppers (76%) who highly rated their returns experience with a retailer said they’d shop with them again because of it. When service agents have the right tools in their arsenal to deliver painless retail returns, the payoff is much more than cost savings — it’s brand loyalty and customer trust. 


Lauren Wallace is an editorial lead for Commerce Cloud. She’s written for B2C and B2B companies in many different industries — most recently cybersecurity and healthcare. When she’s not writing about commerce, you can typically find her outside running or biking around San Diego.

More by Lauren

Related Stories

Astro

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Enter a valid e-mail address
Select your Country
Select a state
Please read and agree to the Master Subscription Agreement

Yes, I would like to receive the Salesforce Weekly Brief as well as marketing communications regarding Salesforce products, services, and events. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Salesforce values your privacy. To learn more, visit our Privacy Statement.