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The 30 minute moment refund from hell

When you need to get a refund for something, being made to jump through hoops is a short cut way to getting it very wrong.

30 Minute Moments... the bad AND the ugly

Small heads-up, if you haven’t read the intro to this series, I’d suggest starting there (it’s really short so you can read it in a jiffy).

This one is a bit of a sneaky one, mainly because I think it’s both bad and ugly. Like properly ‘you really shouldn’t do it like that’ and ‘omg how ugly is this experience’.

In fairness is a doozy. It’s so cringeworthy ugly that I had to include it. I’m still wincing about how bad it is, and it’s only a few weeks later.

Today’s 30 Minute Moment the story of an experience that went really badly wrong from the experience of using something, and how they totally stuffed up the refund process.

The experience was so bad, I absolutely will not use anything they sell, I have blocked them on Instagram and Facebook because I no longer want to see their adverts.I

The Refund from Hell

Kinda sounds like a Harry Potter book, doesn’t it?  “Harry Potter and the Refund from Hell”.  I digress.  It’s not.  

I touched on this in my blog post “Does my mansplaining make me look big in this”. Go and have a read (when you’ve finished this one, natch!)

It was in the Facebook post that got me mansplained, trying to show, rather than tell why getting a refund policy wrong can bite you. 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin

A few weeks ago, realising that I need to build an email list from zero I enrolled on a course by a reasonably well known influencer.

I did my research beforehand, and found that it looked like they knew what they were talking about.

And maybe they did know what they were talking about, but they’d failed to mention something in the initial blurb on their course sign-up page that was very important.

At this point, I should probably mention that last year I did Marie Forleo’s B-School course. The quality of which is out of this world good, with the videos that are engaging, worksheets that really got you to dig deep and do the work and a TON of additional resources that made it worth every penny.

I was expecting the same from this, given the money was almost a ¼ of Marie Forleo’s B-School.

When you’re doing a course, you need to be guided through a process. It needs to be a mix of learn then do. The worksheets you’re given need to guide you through the ‘doing’ part of it.

The course, I found, was a lot of ‘listening’ and then the worksheets didn’t quite match-up. You couldn’t go back to the videos and follow what you needed to do step-by-step to make sure you were getting it right.

I felt uncertain and unsure of what I was doing.

The bit they failed to mention before paying for the course

Then the the nail in the coffin that made me realise I wasn’t going to get what I wanted out of the course because the thing that had been failed to mention was this:

You need at least 1000 followers on social media.

Right. Yeah. Don’t have that (yet).

All the efforts I needed to put in weren’t going to get me the list I wanted because I didn’t have the followers. There wasn’t any good clear advice on how to achieve that easily or quickly either.

So I went back to the emails I’d gotten* and looked for information on how I could request a refund. Found the email address and asked for a refund.

*as a side note, the course taught a lot of lessons about not bombarding people with emails, but if you look at the volume that I got sent from this person, the time per volume ratio did not match what they were preaching.

The refund…

I got an email back a day later, with the information about how to apply for a refund. There was a link to a form.

Nothing strikes fear into your heart than being sent a link to a form after you’ve requested a refund.

And this, dear reader, is where it all went wrong.

The form, I’ve since noticed, has been changed. It’s a tiny bit less complex but it’s still ridiculous. I will show you what the problem was with it.

So the form, asked for the reason for refund, evidence you’d completed the course, screenshots of your Google analytics account (which is a big no-no when it comes to sharing in my book).

It felt like I was being asked to do the following:

  • Complete a DNA test
  • Share the results with the whole world
  • Hop up and down on one leg
  • Whilst standing on the other
  • Show I’ve tied my shoelaces up
  • To each other.

Essentially, it was impossible to prove that you could get a refund.

Not giving up!

At this point, being equal parts angry and stubborn, I started Googling where I stood legally.

In the UK (which is where I’m based), this meant I ended up on the website. Where it states:

“Online, mail and telephone order customers have the right to cancel their order for a limited time even if the goods aren’t faulty… You must offer a refund to customers if they’ve told you within 14 days”.

It doesn’t state that legally companies offering products to customers in the UK are covered by the same law. A bit more Googling suggests it’s a bit of a grey area.

But I did find something that said if businesses or companies are marketing to UK customers then they need to follow this policy.

Great. I emailed them back and stated as much. I also said that as someone who specialises in user experience, this policy was anything but good experience.

A few days later, I got a refund.

The story does kind of end there, but I’ve already mentioned that this has cost them my business. It’s also cost them trust and reputation – something that is an intangible cost to a business, but once lost is very hard to regain.

Where did it all go so wrong?

Put very simply – they designed a refund policy for the minority rather than the majority. They also excessively over complicated it.

I completely understand why they would offer this policy. On one side of the coin, they want their customers to achieve their course goals – admirable. On the other side of the coin they want to dissuade customers from claiming a refund.

Let’s go back to majority vs minority design. I try to use the 80/20 split in things.

If you’re designing something, aim for 80% satisfaction. That is you’ll have at least 80% of your customers who are happy with the thing they’ve bought from you.

The 20% are the ones you’re going to have to live with.

Put even more simply – you’re not a cookie, not everyone can like you.

At this point you need to come up with a policy or rule for that 20% of people. One that makes your life easy. That means designing a process that’s really simple to follow and simple to administer.

What do you mean, make my life simple?

I’m sure you’re asking ‘one that makes my life simple? Huh?’ Let’s take a moment and imagine you’ve got an upset customer. Something you’ve sold them isn’t meeting their needs or expectations, or it’s broken. If you’ve got a complicated Returns & Refund policy, the first thing they will do is email you.

If you’ve made them hunt to find your contact details, their red mist is going to be getting redder.

So by the time you get the email, it’s possibly full of expletives and spelling mistakes. Maybe they’ve called your mother a hamster.

The point is – how are YOU feeling right now?

Upset? Stressed? Anxious? Angry?

Damn straight you are.

Are you going to start ignoring emails and letting that email count pile up?

If you’re running the business yourself you probably are.

Ask yourself if it’s worth the following

  • The actual cost of the thing you’ve sold them
  • Your trust relationship with them
  • Potential damage to reputation (as word of mouth spreads faster than Nutella)
  • Your time

I’m sure 80% of you are saying ‘no’ right now.

KISS it… Keep It Simple, Stupid

This is something I try very hard to keep to. I even have it stuck to a post-it note to my monitor.

I would create a page called ‘Returns & Refunds’ or ‘Cancellation & Refunds’ and put the link in the bottom of your page (footer).

The following are the kinds of questions your customers or clients are likely to ask you when wanting a refund:

  • What is your refund policy?
  • When can I get a refund / When can’t I get a refund?
  • What are my legal rights?
  • How long will it take to get a refund?
  • How do I get a refund?

You can check out my Cancellations and Refund Policy (just so you can check I’m practicing what I preach).

Why you need a clearly labelled and easy to find policy

If you are selling an amazing product then very few people will ask for a refund (see my point on 80/20).

Where and how

To keep it simple, if you’re only selling one product, you can include all the information the product page itself.

However, if you have a shop or you sell something that’s time limited (i.e. the product page will vanish after a set time), put a Refund & Return page link in the footer of your site. 

Include the link on the product pages, and in any correspondence you send when the sale is completed.

I would also make the policy as simple as possible – both to understand by the customer and for you to administer.

As your business grows, someone else will probably be dealing with refunds for you – if you make the process complex, there is an even bigger cost, their time.

If you offer your customer an experience that exceeds their expectations they will probably forget they needed a refund, because the experience was so transparent.

They will remember that you’re a trustworthy brand they can spend their money with again.

Why you need one

Many people will use a Return & Refund policy to help them with their buying decision. 

If you’re selling something that’s expensive, unique or being shipped from outside their country, your customers are more likely to check this.

Providing a clearly documented refund policy is also a legal requirement in many countries.  

In their shoes moment

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. How do you want them to feel if they find themselves needing a refund?

I know you probably don’t want them to need one, but from time to time we all do.

Do you want their life to be as simple as possible and be left feeling that although it didn’t work out this time, it may do in the future? Or do you no longer want them as a customer?

Why not comment below and let me know what you want your customer to experience, or perhaps your own bad & ugly 30 Minute Moment.


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