How to Cut Down on Product Returns and Refunds

It’s every Internet marketer’s dirty little secret:

We hate product returns and refund requests!

As my colleague FG puts it: “I hate seeing the UPS man coming the wrong way!”

It’s not so much the money, although we don’t enjoy giving money back.

It’s that we take the rejection of our information products personally, as a rejection of us and our work.

Every time a book is returned to one of the largest mail-order book publishers, the CEO complains: “Why are they returning this? It’s a GREAT book!”

But a product can be great and still be returned for refund for a variety of reasons:

1. The product does not present the content the buyer expected.

Every once in a while, for example, someone returns my copywriting course because they were really looking for instructions on copyrighting, not copywriting.

2. The product is in the wrong medium for the customer.

Though clearly stated that my written info products are e-books, people will order and then complain that they got an e-book instead of a printed book.

3. The product is too basic.

The buyer may listen to, watch, or read your info product, only to discover that he already knows everything in it. In that case, he may legitimately want to return it for a refund.

4. The product is too advanced.

Some of your information products may be beyond some buyers’ understanding because the material is advanced and the customer is a beginner. This is another case where he may legitimately want to return it for a refund.

5. The product is worth the purchase price — but no more than that.

Believe it or not, I’ve had products returned with notes that said, “This product is worth the price you charge, but not more than that.” And yet, the buyer was dissatisfied enough to return it for refund!

The truth is that in today’s business world, it’s not enough to give the customer her money’s worth. You have to give her MORE than her money’s worth.

6. The customer decides not to pursue the course of action laid out by the product.

Most how-to information products help people reach a certain goal — e.g., to start a new career or get involved in a new hobby.

After reviewing your info product, some buyers may decide that the career or hobby (or whatever) is simply not for them, for any number of reasons. In such a case, they will almost surely want to return the info product for a refund.

7. You sell an inferior product.

The sad truth is that a lot of self-published information products produced by independent entrepreneurs are of questionable quality.

A book published by a mainstream publishing house is edited by a professional editor. But many e-books are not edited at all.

If your information is sketchy, difficult to understand, or technically inaccurate… or your instructions are unclear or hard to follow… expect lots of returns and refund requests.

As a rule of thumb, your refund rate should be less than 10% and ideally less than 5%. These numbers tend to increase in a shaky economy, such as the one we’re suffering through now.

Okay. So now that you know the reasons for product returns, here are some actions you can take to reduce your refund rates:

  • Describe the product accurately on your sales page. When the sales copy correctly describes the product, customers are more satisfied when they receive it.
  • Highlight and clarify information on your sales page that commonly confuses customers. For example, I find I get fewer refund requests if I repeat several times the fact that my written info products are e-books and not printed books.
  • Update your information products frequently — at least once a year. If the customer sees a 2005 copyright date in 2011, he’ll automatically assume that your product is out of date, even if it is not.
  • Control the hype. All sales copy has hype to some degree. But customers will be disappointed if you over-promise and under-deliver. It’s far better to under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Make sure every information product you create is worth at least 10 times the price you charge for it.
  • Don’t just tell the customer how to do something, motivate him to do it — and the perfect place to do that is in the introduction to your info product. You want him to believe he can accomplish what your product teaches. And you want him to be eager to learn it.

For more information on selling information products on the Internet, see my e-book, “Writing E-Books for Fun and Profit.” Click here for details:

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Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of more than 70 books. To subscribe to his free e-zine, The Direct Response Letter, and claim your free gift worth $116, click here now.]