How a Basic Chatbot Could Reduce Your Return Rate

Emily VuittonEcommerceLeave a Comment

chat-bot-reduce-returns

About the Author

Patrick Foster of Ecommerce Tips—a leading blog and resource written by ecommerce professionals for ecommerce professionals—was kind enough to contribute this post to the Chargeback blog. We’re excited to share his ecommerce perspective and expertise.

For ecommerce sellers, returns are consistent sources of profit-sapping frustration. Consequently, it’s important to take every effort to reduce them—and a simple chatbot can make a major difference. Here’s how.

The convenience of online retail is mostly a good thing for merchants and customers alike, but it makes returns even more damaging. They’re often hard for buyers to arrange, souring them on the stores, and sellers must find time-sapping (and potentially expensive) ways to mollify them — especially given the precedent set by Amazon’s generous return policy.

Given this, it makes all the sense in the world to invest in avoiding returns whenever possible, and installing even a basic chatbot could help you do just that without spending much money. Let’s take a look at how exactly a chatbot can reduce your return rate:

By answering frequently-asked questions

Every retail business will accrue queries from potential and existing customers alike, and certain matters will inevitably crop up on a frequent basis. Questions such as “What happens if I’m not happy with my purchase?”, “Is this product available in any other colors?”, or “When is this expected to be back in stock?” are likely candidates.

Some businesses try to handle these questions by providing dedicated FAQ sections, but it doesn’t always work too well. The problem is that people who are frustrated because they lack information might want (or need) to take action quickly, and may well simply opt to go ahead and order. After all, while US law doesn’t guarantee that returns will be accepted, it’s hard for a business to compete online if it doesn’t at least try to measure up to Amazon.

With a chatbot clearly accessible from every page of your site, however, you can provide answers in a manner too convenient to overlook. When it pops up, it can (for instance) immediately display a shortlist of the questions most commonly asked on that page or about that product. Armed with that information, the shopper can proceed with a lot more confidence that they’re making the right choice — making them less likely to end up with a product they don’t want and will seek to return.

This type of chatbot is also going to be invaluable for recent customers who merely suspect that they may need to return their purchases. Take consumer electronics, for instance: a buyer might think that a product is broken when they actually just don’t know how it works. They could buy a laptop, assume that it’ll be charged out of the box, be unable to power it on, and request a return of their “faulty” item. Having a chatbot in place with some straightforward diagnostics might be enough to clear up their confusion and avoid that return entirely.

By freeing up time for your support assistants

Some shoppers take the approach of finding the contact channels and leaning on them heavily. Once someone has had one productive email exchange with a support assistant, it’s easy to think nothing of piling more and more questions on them — especially since that assistant will be asked (or even commanded) to keep helping that person.

This reliance upon support systems soaks up time and attention that could be used elsewhere. It’s one thing if a request requires the nuance of manual intervention, but many requests don’t — and when they don’t, they might as well be automated. This goes not only for simple queries but also for commonplace actions such as cancelling orders or changing account details.

If you have a chatbot in place to smoothly field typical requests, then your support assistants can focus on something more important: fielding high-level support concerns that require their trained judgment and conversational skills. If someone has the expertise to talk someone out of returning an item, there’s no sense in wasting their time dealing with everyday concerns.

By easily scaling to meet demand

The cornerstone of enterprise-level ecommerce success is scalability. The more your operation can ramp up or down to meet demand, the more money you’ll make, and the more money you’ll save. This is why there’s such value in embracing SaaS for your business operations, running flexible hours, using third-party shipping solutions such as dropshipping, and moving to an enterprise solution for managing your content and services.

And chatbots are readily scalable. In fact, one bot can manage as many simultaneous customers as your computational resources can handle — and if you are taking advantage of an enterprise-level CMS service like Shopify Plus or perhaps the enterprise release of Magento, then you shouldn’t have any issues meeting demand, even at the busiest times of the year.

Without a chatbot, something like the Christmas period could easily turn into a headache when January arrives and you get a huge influx of returns from customers who weren’t able to reach anyone and ordered speculatively — wearying your support team, and steadily sapping the seasonal profits.

And an ecommerce-viable chatbot isn’t even going to be that expensive. Most of the cost is going to come from the resources and development needed: here’s a list of viable chatbots, so if you’re interested in taking this route, review the options and find one that fits your business.

Even a simple chatbot with default functionality can make a big difference to your return rate by answering common questions at scale and freeing up your support employees to focus on the most complex support matters. And given the low cost of entry, isn’t it worth trying this route? What do you have to lose?

About the Author

Patrick Foster of Ecommerce Tips—a leading blog and resource written by ecommerce professionals for ecommerce professionals—was kind enough to contribute this post to the Chargeback blog. We’re excited to share his ecommerce perspective and expertise.

For ecommerce sellers, returns are consistent sources of profit-sapping frustration. Consequently, it’s important to take every effort to reduce them — and a simple chatbot can make a major difference. Here’s how.

The convenience of online retail is mostly a good thing for merchants and customers alike, but it makes returns even more damaging. They’re often hard for buyers to arrange, souring them on the stores, and sellers must find time-sapping (and potentially expensive) ways to mollify them — especially given the precedent set by Amazon’s generous return policy.

Given this, it makes all the sense in the world to invest in avoiding returns whenever possible, and installing even a basic chatbot could help you do just that without spending much money. Let’s take a look at how exactly a chatbot can reduce your return rate:

By answering frequently-asked questions

Every retail business will accrue queries from potential and existing customers alike, and certain matters will inevitably crop up on a frequent basis. Questions such as “What happens if I’m not happy with my purchase?”, “Is this product available in any other colors?”, or “When is this expected to be back in stock?” are likely candidates.

Some businesses try to handle these questions by providing dedicated FAQ sections, but it doesn’t always work too well. The problem is that people who are frustrated because they lack information might want (or need) to take action quickly, and may well simply opt to go ahead and order. After all, while US law doesn’t guarantee that returns will be accepted, it’s hard for a business to compete online if it doesn’t at least try to measure up to Amazon.

With a chatbot clearly accessible from every page of your site, however, you can provide answers in a manner too convenient to overlook. When it pops up, it can (for instance) immediately display a shortlist of the questions most commonly asked on that page or about that product. Armed with that information, the shopper can proceed with a lot more confidence that they’re making the right choice — making them less likely to end up with a product they don’t want and will seek to return.

This type of chatbot is also going to be invaluable for recent customers who merely suspect that they may need to return their purchases. Take consumer electronics, for instance: a buyer might think that a product is broken when they actually just don’t know how it works. They could buy a laptop, assume that it’ll be charged out of the box, be unable to power it on, and request a return of their “faulty” item. Having a chatbot in place with some straightforward diagnostics might be enough to clear up their confusion and avoid that return entirely.

By freeing up time for your support assistants

Some shoppers take the approach of finding the contact channels and leaning on them heavily. Once someone has had one productive email exchange with a support assistant, it’s easy to think nothing of piling more and more questions on them — especially since that assistant will be asked (or even commanded) to keep helping that person.

This reliance upon support systems soaks up time and attention that could be used elsewhere. It’s one thing if a request requires the nuance of manual intervention, but many requests don’t — and when they don’t, they might as well be automated. This goes not only for simple queries but also for commonplace actions such as cancelling orders or changing account details.

If you have a chatbot in place to smoothly field typical requests, then your support assistants can focus on something more important: fielding high-level support concerns that require their trained judgment and conversational skills. If someone has the expertise to talk someone out of returning an item, there’s no sense in wasting their time dealing with everyday concerns.

By easily scaling to meet demand

The cornerstone of enterprise-level ecommerce success is scalability. The more your operation can ramp up or down to meet demand, the more money you’ll make, and the more money you’ll save. This is why there’s such value in embracing SaaS for your business operations, running flexible hours, using third-party shipping solutions such as dropshipping, and moving to an enterprise solution for managing your content and services.

And chatbots are readily scalable. In fact, one bot can manage as many simultaneous customers as your computational resources can handle — and if you are taking advantage of an enterprise-level CMS service like Shopify Plus or perhaps the enterprise release of Magento, then you shouldn’t have any issues meeting demand, even at the busiest times of the year.

Without a chatbot, something like the Christmas period could easily turn into a headache when January arrives and you get a huge influx of returns from customers who weren’t able to reach anyone and ordered speculatively — wearying your support team, and steadily sapping the seasonal profits.

And an ecommerce-viable chatbot isn’t even going to be that expensive. Most of the cost is going to come from the resources and development needed: here’s a list of viable chatbots, so if you’re interested in taking this route, review the options and find one that fits your business.

Even a simple chatbot with default functionality can make a big difference to your return rate by answering common questions at scale and freeing up your support employees to focus on the most complex support matters. And given the low cost of entry, isn’t it worth trying this route? What do you have to lose?