You can please customers and cut costs, says Tesco returns chief

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Providing a returns policy that pleases customers needn’t run counter to the necessity to cut costs, Ian Towell, head of general merchandise multi-channel returns at Tesco, told delegates at the OmniChannel Conference yesterday.

“I think it’s possible to do both,” Towell said. “You can provide a great customer experience and break even.”

However, he said, the changing nature of retail has been presenting some hurdles that need to be overcome. With 80 per cent of returns coming through one of the supermarket’s 2,500 high street click and collect stores, Towell noted the importance in having stores connected to the online retailer.

“With 75 per cent of returns the result of customers seeking a replacement for a faulty product, it is important that the store knows it is not just meant to be handing over the replacement but also receiving the return,” Towell said. “Our systems don’t fully support this and as such it is resulting in stock loss.”

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According to Towell, from a poll conducted by the supermarket, 37 per cent of respondents stated that ease of returns and exchanges were a major factor in their retail experience.

Towell said customers are more likely to discuss a negative retail experience than they are to discuss a positive experience. As a result, he believes that providing customers with a “great returns experience” equates to stronger customer advocacy and loyalty.

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