Biggest Mistakes When Writing a Return Policy


The most important step in designing an efficient reverse logistics system is creating a good return policy. It is the backbone of the entire return process and will be the basis of many other parts of the system, such as repairs and product warranty management. Moreover, the return policy plays a significant role in decreasing losses due to returns and turning a negative customer experience into a positive one.

The process of writing a return policy is not overly complex. However, there is still room for error that can make your policy do more harm than good. Here are some of the most common mistakes when creating a return policy and how to avoid them.

  1. Making your policy difficult to understand

A return policy should be written in clear, concise, and easy-to-understand English. Customers should be able to know what to do when they read your policy without the need for clarification from customer service. Using complex language or legal jargon is a no-no since it will only serve to confuse or intimidate customers, who will then be less likely to make another purchase.

The policy must have clear instructions on how to return an item. It should also explicitly state how long a customer has to return an item, what items cannot be returned, any restrictions about the condition of the item, and when they should expect a refund or replacement.

  1. Not making your policy easy to find

Don’t make customers comb through the entire website just to read your policy. The best practice is to have your return policy in the main menu of your website where customers can easily see it. It is also imperative that you include the return policy in confirmation e-mails and packing slips. In this way, customers who have already bought an item can easily find the policy if they happen to be unsatisfied with the item they have ordered.

  1. Making the return process difficult

Some businesses have this idea of making the return process difficult in order to discourage returns and minimize losses. However, keep in mind that a good return policy also affects the brand image, and making your customers jump through multiple hoops to return an item is an easy way to get rid of them for good.

Customers don’t want to shop with a business that has a return policy that is not flexible enough or not reasonable enough. They are more likely to trust a business wherein they can shop without negative consequences, and so are more willing to spend more and become repeat customers.

  1. Copying and pasting

Another company’s return policy may work well for them, but it may not be the same for you. Your policy depends on your industry, products, customer demographic, and many other factors that are unique to your company. Hence, you have to create a policy that is tailor-fit for your business and the products that you offer.

Keep in mind that your return policy is going to be one of the most-read pieces of text on your website, probably even more than your About Us page, which is another reason why you need to create your own return policy–it’s a marketing opportunity. You can make your policy enjoyable to read and use it to emphasize your commitment to good service.

  1. Using negative language

Avoid using negative sentences like “We will not accept returns after 14 days” or “Customers cannot return final sale items”. Instead, use sentences like “We will gladly accept returns within the first 14 days of purchase” or “You can return any item as long as they are not tagged as final sale items.” Customers feel more comfortable and confident when reading a policy that uses positive language and is hence more likely to push through with their purchase.

Similarly, avoid mandating phrases like ‘you must’ or ‘you are required to.’ These phrases can scare off customers before they even make a purchase, leading to lost potential revenue and paying customers.

  1. Being ambiguous

“The restocking fee may be deducted from the total refund amount.” Will the amount be deducted or not? “We accept returns within 30 days.” From when? After purchase? Or after receipt of the product?

Make each sentence of your policy unambiguous to keep customers from getting confused. Doing so will not only increase customer confidence but will also reduce unnecessary queries to your customer service department.

Setting up a good return policy for your business is one of the best ways to increase customer satisfaction and reduce losses in revenue. By avoiding these mistakes, you can create a policy that is fair, effective, and will make your returns system much more efficient.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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