I started my sales career in early 2000 selling educational software for the Office package over the phone. It was a tough job in a tough environment. We were placed in what was called and felt like a “bunker”. The “bunker” was basically a dark basement with very few windows located in the city center of Stockholm.
The targets were high and to reach the targets you had to make hundreds of calls per day to reach a potential customer and to make a sale.
After an order, customers had two weeks to return the items, and unfortunately, I had more returns and less sales than the people sitting closer to the window. This got me thinking – what did they do differently than me? And could I mimic what they were doing? I asked them for advice, and half expected them to tell me the story of their life. However, alongside recounting their sales victories, they also emphasized the importance of returns.
While I saw a return as a failed sale, my successful colleagues saw it as an opportunity. When they got a return, they instantly followed up with the customer and asked why the program was sent back. Many times, the return was due to a lack of time to even open and start using the software.
Returns management that allows consumers to return their items is an essential part of any successful e-tailer’s supply chain strategy. Offering free returns and simplifying the return process is a great way to reduce reluctance and make a sale.
When ecommerce first took off, there were many experts that doubted that shoes and clothing would sell. They guessed that customers would think: ”I have to try these items before I’m willing to buy them.” However, this doubt was overcome with the help of free returns, and clothing and shoes are now the top sales categories for goods bought online. Even the Italians have started to understand that shoes can be bought online!
The ”bunker” where I started my sales career is probably an apartment in the overpriced city center in Stockholm today, but the lesson of handling returns is still valid.
I know an e-tailer will incur short-term costs, but if returns are handled well, this will work toward achieving long-term goals – it will enable sales in the first place, but also lead to better reviews and more sales by loyal customers in the future.
Bjorn Moberg, Regional Business Development Manager, Direct Link Asia Pacific