Customer Experience

Handling Refunds: A 4-Step Guide

Sometimes you just have to give a refund. Here’s a closer look at how to get it right every time.

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When a customer is dissatisfied, your customer service team will go out of its way to make it right. Identifying the problem and offering a range of solutions can often shift the dynamic and entice customers to fall back in love with your brand. But what should you do if nothing you offer is working? Here’s a quick guide to making the refund process a positive customer experience.

Explore a range of options: Before moving to the refund, take the time to understand the problem. Was it an issue with the product that could be solved with a replacement or a shipping issue that could be solved with follow up? Sometimes, customers call asking for a refund, but the best solution to their issue just requires some effort from your team. Providing the right solutions can result in happier customers and far fewer refunds being issued.

Know when to identify a refund situation: Certain situations just can’t be solved with anything less than a refund. For example, when a customer orders a product for a special event and it doesn’t arrive in time, he or she may  no longer have a need for it. Compounded by the customer’s frustration, the whole situation has eroded trust and left him or her unhappy at the prospect of doing business with your brand again. If your customer service team is empowered and trained to identify these “code red” situations, offering a refund immediately can help save the relationship. Customers who had a bad experience—and then had to fight to get their money back—are unlikely to come back to you in the future.

Offer options for processing the refund: Recently, when I called a company to return an item, I was offered two options for the refund. I could have the cost of the product plus shipping immediately refunded to my method of payment. The alternative was that I could accept a retailer credit that would include a $10 bonus. Because I was happy with the service, I opted for the credit. Consider offering customers both options to support their needs.

Minimize delays: When you’re giving a customer a refund, it’s important to make the process as painless as possible. How long does it take for a refund to process? Under 2 weeks offers customers a positive experience. In some cases, companies will try to extend this to one to two billing cycles. Don’t further frustrate an unhappy customer by tying up their disposable income. Process refunds expediently, work with payment processors that are efficient, and send confirmations along the way.