When your new dropshipping store starts making money for the first time, it’s a great feeling. You’re getting a lot of sales, and you keep refreshing your orders page to see all of the beautiful new orders.
At last, you can see that all your hard work has paid off. I’ve been there, and it feels like you’re flying and always want to shout for joy and pump your fist in celebration.
Then it takes place. Even with the best products, it always seems to happen.
One of your first customers sends you an email asking for a refund and telling you to send the item back.
Oh no, you’ve been so busy thinking about how to sell your products that you haven’t thought about what to do if someone wants to return or exchange it.
But don’t worry, with some simple planning, filing your taxes will be a breeze… Well, it could be a piece of stale fruit cake because, let’s be honest, no one likes to deal with dropshipping returns.
Working With Your Suppliers Returns Policy for Dropshipping
The first step in making a solid return policy is to talk to your dropshipping suppliers and find out how they handle returns.
Really easy, right? You wouldn’t believe how many people skip this important step.
Whether you found a supplier on AliExpress or have a direct connection with a US-based company, the return policies will be different. Some may give you 10 days to return something, and others may give you 60.
Each product category can also be a little different, so make sure you find out what can and can’t be returned. For example, a clothing store might take back all items of clothing except for underwear (ugh, it wouldn’t be fun to deal with used underwear).
It’s best to find out right away what their policies are and if customers can send returns back to them directly.
Determine Where Returns Will Be Sent
Now that you know how your dropshipping suppliers handle returns, you need to figure out where your customers should return products.
If your customers are in the US, you are in the US, and your supplier is in China, it probably makes the most sense to have your customers ship returns directly to you (unless they are very large items like furniture).
Oh, you don’t want to give your clients your home address? This can be fixed in just two easy steps.
You can rent a PO Box at a nearby post office or through the USPS. If there is a post office nearby, I’d suggest going there because it’s easier to get packages from more than one place. Prices depend on where you live, but you can get all your returns sent to one safe place for $10–$20 a month. They not only give you a business address, but they also give your business a little more credibility because people do check Google Maps to see where your business is.
Next is a very important tip that will cut down on the number of returns you get and save you a lot of trouble.
Are you ready?
You should never put your mailing address on your website. Make them first call you before you give it to them. You’d be surprised by how many random returns you get from people who never contact you. Then you have to try to find them and find out why they sent it back, if they want an exchange, what their order number is, if they are still in the return period, etc. It’s a bother.
If you make them contact you first, it’s much easier to organize returns and will save you and your customers a lot of trouble.
Make a return policy.
Next, you need to write a clear return policy and put it on your site where everyone can see it. You can make it however you want, but here are some ideas.
Use the rules of your suppliers as a guide.
Let’s say you decide to send returns directly to a supplier who allows returns for 30 days. Set your policy a little bit shorter for your customers so you have room for error. I’d do something like 20 days.
Make it clear who pays for shipping back.
It is important to tell your customers if they have to pay for return shipping. Again, this is all up to you and will depend on your brand.
If you sell expensive items, you might want to offer free return shipping (where you pay for it) because it will help you make more sales on the front end.
But if customers have to pay for the shipping back, you won’t get as many returns because many people don’t want to deal with it. This might keep some customers from coming back (though I don’t think it will be many), but it will save you a lot of money.
Give great service to your customers.
As you grow your business, it’s important to make sure that your customers have a great time. Part of that means not always following your return policies and giving people a little wiggle room to keep them happy (trust me, people will write bad reviews any chance they get…. Don’t let them do that).
In my last e-commerce business, I made and sold clothes that were made to order. We had a customer ask to change sizes even though it had been a few months since our policy said we would accept returns. They said that their husband had died and that they hadn’t changed it for a different size yet. I couldn’t tell if they were telling the truth or not, but we made sure to offer her a free exchange and sent her a new shirt, a free second shirt, and a handwritten note.
Don’t worry too much if you have a 30-day policy and their return comes in on day 31. Give them their money back and go on.
Customers will buy from you again if you treat them well. Recurring customers pay the bills.
Broken or Damaged Items
If you’ve found a good supplier who sells good products and takes the time to ship them right, you shouldn’t get many broken or damaged items.
But if a customer writes to tell you they got a damaged item, I think you should ask them to send a picture of the item and its packaging so you can figure out what’s wrong. Then call your supplier right away to get them to send you a replacement.
Most of the time, you just let the customer keep the original and don’t bother sending it back. The only time this wouldn’t apply is if you were selling expensive electronics or something similar that could be fixed and it would be worth it to do so. If this is the case, you should pay to ship the item back.
How to Take Care of Returns
As you grow, it can be hard to keep track of your returns if you don’t stay organized.
First, I would strongly suggest using a good customer service software like Help Scout, ZenDesk, Gorgias.io, or something similar. Most of these programs let you label conversations, which makes it easy to keep track of returns.
Next, when you’re just getting started, I’d do something very simple like make a Google Docs or Excel spreadsheet with all of the customer information for each return. Give each return an RMA number (just make one up for each customer) and have them put it on the package. This will let you put the return in the same place as the order. If your returns are going straight back to your supplier, they will usually give you this number.
As you get better and get more orders, the number of returns you get may also go up, and it may be time to move on from that spreadsheet. Then, if you’re using Shopify, I’d suggest using a returns app like Return Magic.
There are a lot of cool features that can be added to these that make it so much easier to handle returns.
Normal Returns Are Made
Just keep in mind that every online store has to deal with people who want to return or exchange items. It’s not fun, but you are not the only one. If you haven’t already, set aside some time to plan your policies and procedures.
When one of your products takes off and orders pour in, you’ll be glad you made plans ahead of time. You should be celebrating your success during that time, not trying to figure out what to do with the money.
In the comments below, tell us about the things that bother you the most about dropshipping returns.