Shipping Tips & Solutions

How to Deal with Damaged Goods Returns

Gayatri Bhaumik

by Gayatri Bhaumik

On 2020 M01 28

by Gayatri Bhaumik

Any smart eCommerce retailer will be proud to have a suite of high-quality products, amazing customer support, and top-of-the-line fulfillment, all of which ensure a great customer experience. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that can quickly trip up this happy status quo. Returns are a sad fact of any retail business and if not handled appropriately, can make huge dents in your profits. It can be especially frustrating if you have to deal with the return of damaged goods.

Compared to brick-and-mortar stores, online businesses have to deal with a lot more returns. In fact, at least 30% of all online orders are returned. While many of these are due to a customer changing their mind or finding that the product doesn’t fit, a good percentage of online returns are often due to goods being faulty. The first step in combating this is, of course, to ensure that your products are delivered to your customers in the best possible condition. Secondly, it’s important to have a good return policy that will protect you as well as your customers. Did you know that 95% of online buyers prefer to buy from a site that has a good return policy?

With this in mind, you can see that returns are a big part of an eCommerce business. To deal with this, you must take steps to minimize the chances of your goods being spoiled in transit and ensure that you have a good damaged goods return policy. This will lower the need to deal with angry customers and minimize any potential hits to your bottom line or reputation.

Photo via Instagram @haroldhlin

How Do Products Get Damaged in the First Place?

If your customers are returning their orders because they’re receiving faulty or broken products, you need to identify why this is happening. By preventing this to happen, you will be able to lessen the number of returns you have to deal with. Here are a few reasons why you may be dealing with damaged goods received by your customers:

  • You’re not packing your items properly: Sometimes, to cut costs, shippers use old boxes or fewer packing materials. While this may be cheaper for you, it can mean that your goods aren’t well protected for their journey and can be damaged easily.
  • Mishandling by your courier: Even if you’re using a reputable company, couriers have a lot of packages to deal with everyday - that means, they’re not always as careful as they should be. For example, your fragile package could end up under bigger, heavier parcels, which means your customer receives broken goods.
  • Bad warehouse conditions: There are many ways in which your goods may be negatively impacted while in storage in a warehouse - perhaps the temperatures aren’t right, or low security means lots of theft, or a bad location allows for natural disasters like floods and tornados. All of this means your goods won’t be in good condition.
  • Adverse weather: Bad weather conditions can also damage your packages before they arrive to your customers. Humid conditions, snow, and rain can all weaken boxes and leave your items susceptible to damage.
  • Bad road conditions: The last mile of delivery is usually done by road, and bad road conditions can result in your goods being thrown around in trucks - and being damaged - before they get to your customers.
  • Human error: Unfortunately, humans aren’t infallible, so we’re prone to accidents. The shipping process involves hundreds of people handling and sorting your shipments, and at any time during the process, an accident can occur, leaving your goods broken or otherwise ruined.

Why You Should Avoid Damaged Product Returns

Receiving faulty or broken items is never going to be a good scenario for your business. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Wasted time: A lot of time is wasted in dealing with returns. Hours of customer service time is spent on dealing with complaints, while your business will also have to spend hours on administrative tasks relating to the return.
  • High costs: They can cost your business a lot of money. You’ll either have to refund or replace the item - or provide store credit. Plus, you may incur costs in transporting the item back to your store.
  • Upset customers: There’s no doubt that your customer isn’t going to be happy with receiving goods that aren’t in good condition. And, even if you have great customer service and go out of your way to compensate your customer, this experience may stop them from making more purchases from you in the future. At worst, they may even take to social media and put a dent in your reputation.

But dealing with all of these issues can be much easier if you have a good defective product return policy in place. When your customers complain that they’ve received a damaged product, you can simply follow the procedure outlined in your return policy. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your defective product return policy is effectively communicated to the customer at the time of purchase so that there are no ambiguities.

10 Tips to Prevent Damaged Goods Returns

Of course, there are certain steps you can take to lower the number of damaged goods received by your customers. Here are few tips:

1. Packing Properly

This is the most important thing to do. The box is the right size for your item, and that it can protect it securely. For example, you can get sturdy, insulated boxes for fragile items. Don’t forget to also use an adequate amount of packing material - like packing peanuts - to protect your goods. Then, seal the box on all sides so nothing can get in.

2. Invest in Good Packing Materials

Even if you’re choosing affordable options, you should be sure that your packing materials are of good quality. This will decrease the chances of your items being battered while in transit. More importantly, get appropriate packing materials like bubble wrap for protection of insulated cylinders for perfumes and bottles.

3. Run Some Tests

If you’re able to do this, it might be worth doing an edge crush test on your packages. This will help you figure out how much weight the package can bear while being loaded and stacked during shipping. Once you have this, you can tell your courier so that they can take extra care. This can be especially relevant for international shipping since your products will be going much further.

4. A Reliable Courier Can Go a Long Way

There are hundreds of shipping services available and it can be tricky to choose one. You’ll need to pick one that is known to be reliable in dealing with goods. The best couriers even offer special handling for products - this can be useful if you’re shipping perishable or fragile items. Don’t forget that Easyship can help you compare the best courier services for your requirements - use our courier comparison tool or shipping rates calculator to get our recommended service.

5. Insurance can Lessen Your Losses

All good courier services will also offer insurance for your shipments. It may be a higher upfront cost, but it can be a real blessing if things go wrong during the fulfillment process. Don’t forget that we also offer insurance of up to $5,000 and are quick to deal with claims.

6. An Airtight Return Policy for Damaged Products

A good return policy is a must. That’s why before you start shipping, you need to think about how you will handle shipping damage. The policy should be mutually beneficial for both you and your customers. Some companies take an overly strict stance on returns. For example, Amazon bans serial returners from the platform. But, a defective product return policy should carefully differentiate between genuine returns and fraudulent claims.

7. Offer Exchange Instead of Returns

Offering credit or exchange instead of returns will help you identify real claims from serial returners. This type of policy will encourage sales and impulse buying without the need for you to deal with the headache of returns. You should also limit the number of times a customer can exchange an item so that you aren’t stuck in an endless loop.

8. Good Communication and Customer Service can be an Important Preventive Measure

It’s always crucial to stay in touch with your customers. Clear communication during the pre-purchase and buying processes can minimize any problems later on. That’s why it’s important to have detailed product descriptions and images and spell out your return and exchange policy.

9. Set an Appropriate Timeline For Returns

Setting a time limit on returns can help minimize the number of returns you have to deal with and will help you filter genuine cases from fraudulent ones. For example, your return policy can state that returns have to be made within one month of the purchase date.

10. Always Ask for the Item and Packing

It is always important that you get your customers to return defective or broken products and the original packaging. You should mention this in your damaged goods return policy as a mandatory condition for exchange or return. This can help you ensure that the claim is genuine and assist in finding out exactly where in the post-purchase process the damage occurred.

Things to Watch Out For

There are certain things you need to be aware of when it comes to returns. Identifying these and learning how to avoid them can be a game-changer for your business. Here are a few things to look out:

  • Fraudulent returns: These need to be identified and dealt with. To help with this, make sure your returns policy has certain conditions in place, like returning the item and original packaging and a time limit on returns. Some retailers go as far as to require video or picture proof of the damage at the time of opening the parcels to ensure that it wasn’t the customer that damaged the item.
  • Omissions: There are so many things to deal with when shipping parcels that it can be easy to forget things. Be sure you don’t omit important things like insurance or giving special handling instructions to your couriers.

Boost Customer Satisfaction by Minimizing Shipping Damage

Damaged goods returns are inevitable in eCommerce, but if you learn how to deal with them appropriately, they don’t have to be a huge headache. By using the information in this article, you can minimize your having to deal with your products being battered in transit, Easyship partners with top notch couriers to offer reliable and secure shipping services.  So sign up for a free account now!