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Customer Experience

How to deliver a better shipping and returns experience

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Online retailers are primed for an increase in sales during peak trading periods. Are you ready for the rush? Here are three key questions to ask about your shipping, returns and communication – plus tips from small businesses who are delivering on their customers’ expectations.

Delivery driver looks at tablet.

Designing robust returns policies and postage procedures can be key to ensuring your customers are satisfied and your eCommerce business runs efficiently. This can be is especially true during peak trading periods when holiday deadlines may increase stress, and sales volumes and customer pressures are at an all-time high.

To help you deliver a smooth postage and returns experience, here are three key questions to ask yourself in the lead-up to peak shopping season.

Do our shipping methods correspond with how customers are shopping at this time of year?

When customers need to stay on top of their shopping, they expect businesses to deliver their items quickly. Your shipping methods might serve you well the rest of the year. But do they align with your customers’ expectations during the holidays?

Some methods that are worth offering your customers during peak trading seasons:

  • Click and collect
    This method lets your local customers pick up their order in-person, rather than wait for a delivery. It’s often free for your customer and removes extra logistics on your end. And “click and collect” is a great way to connect in person – something that you can’t do when online orders are delivered by a third-party.
  • Express shipping and next- or same-day delivery
    While they can be more expensive, express shipping and next- or same-day delivery are popular options for customers who need speedy postage. There are a few ways you can approach the added cost of premium delivery, including offering an expedited service for an extra fee, or as a free bonus reserved for orders over a certain threshold.

Do we have an ironclad returns policy?

The Telstra Business Intelligence report on Customer Experience found that 84% of consumers consider the returns policy of a small business “important” when interacting with them online. But a clear, robust policy isn’t just valuable for your customers. In clearly spelling out your business’s process and requirements for returns, exchanges, refunds and replacements, it will legally protect you, too.

In the lead-up to peak trading periods, consider revising your returns policy to ensure it’s up-to-date. Some elements worth factoring into your returns policy include:

  • A clearly stated acceptable timeframe for returns, for example, a 30-day period.
  • Whether you offer free returns (or if this is only in special circumstances or for exchanges).
  • If you provide refunds or in-store credit.
  • What you consider acceptable conditions for a return (e.g. clothing must be returned unwashed and unworn, with all tags attached).
  • If there are any products not available for return or refund. This could apply to sale items or limited-edition pieces.
  • The acceptable parameters for return (like change of mind, incorrect fit or if an item is faulty or in need of repair).

For more information about building a strong returns policy, our article ‘Shipping and delivery fundamentals: How to create and communicate a returns policy’ is a great place to start.

How to craft a returns policy from scratch

Ensure that your policy covers you legally and seek legal advice if you’re not sure.

Are we communicating up-to-date information?

The delivery experience starts at the checkout. Giving customers clear information upfront helps set their expectations. So it’s worth reviewing your website ahead of peak trading season to ensure that it shows the most up-to-date and relevant information. Think about shipping options, costs payable, delivery timeframes and your returns policy.

Be Fit Food is a food delivery business that’s committed to helping Australians eat better. Their vision led them to be named a State Winner at the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards in the Championing Health category. They stay ahead of their customers’ delivery needs and questions in the detailed ‘Delivery Route’ page on their website. It explains their online shipping routes and eligible postcodes across Australia, and makes the estimated delivery dates and cut-off times crystal clear. This way, their customers get ample notice for when they should expect their parcel to arrive – even before they reach the checkout.

CEO and co-founder Kate Save says that communication is key to creating positive customer experiences. “If you are not communicating order cut-off and delivery dates, you’re making people do the hard work of contacting you,” she says. “More often than not, you might lose or disappoint a customer.”

Do we answer frequently asked questions on our website?

Customers are reassured when a business anticipates and answers their commonly asked questions – especially when there are delays in the supply chain, or hard postage deadlines. To save time replying to common customer queries on social media, Kate suggests building out a clear frequently asked questions section on your website. This can both inform automated responses, and reduce your need for constant messaging. “If you find that you are getting a lot of questions that you need auto-responses for, then you’re probably not communicating clearly enough on your website,” she says.

Whether you connect with your customers on your website or social media, giving clear guidance on shipping times and expectations will keep them in the loop and save you time.

Three tips for better shipping experience with Big Shed Brewing

Big Shed Brewing is a South Australian brewery run by friends Craig Basford and Jason Harris.    What began as a passion project is now a successful eCommerce business, taproom and eatery in Adelaide – one that was recently crowned a State Winner at the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards in the Promoting Sustainability category. Here, Jason shares three top tips for creating a great delivery experience.

  1. Go above and beyond
    A little goes a long way when it comes to keeping your customers satisfied. No matter how streamlined your online shipping process is, mistakes can happen. Jason says going the extra mile to amend any errors is worth it. “We did shipping, refunds and returns right from the get-go. We didn’t hesitate,” he says. “If there was an issue with a can, we would replace it with a four-pack. If there was an issue with a four-pack, we’d replace it with a carton.”

  2. One great customer experience is priceless
    Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, so providing a positive experience and exceeding your customers’ expectations can have a ripple effect. Jason shares that one customer’s positive connection with your brand can help you bring in more business. “We go over and above what our website says because one customer with a great experience can go on to tell 10 other people their experience,” he says.

  3.  Share information via the channels your audience are using
    It's important to be where your customers are. And how you share updates with them is no exception. It's worth tapping into where your customers are going to get the latest information about your business - whether that's your website or social media. "We try and communicate on our Facebook as much as possible because we realise that's where people get their information from us," Jason explains.

Taking some extra steps to get your business ready for peak trading periods can help avoid headaches for you and your customers A timely audit of your shipping methods, communication channels and returns policy can make all the difference.

If you’d like to learn more about making the most of your postage systems, take a look at the articles in our shipping and delivery fundamentals series:

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