A proper business should guarantee their products. My idea of a good return policy is that you can return a product for any reason at all, and that you shouldn’t have to state the reason if you don’t care to do so. That’s how we operate, and you can boil it down into three tenets:
- We will never turn down a request for a refund
- We go out of our way to make it easy and painless to get refunded
- We make sure any customer in distress knows that a refund is there for the asking
I always loved the story I heard in business school about Nordstrom, a high-end department store that many of you have probably at least walked by in a mall. The story story goes like this… a man walked into Nordstrom to return a tire without a receipt. While Nordstrom does not carry tires, and while the receipt for the tire did not say Nordstrom, the customer service desk processed the refund without argument.
Now that’s my idea of good customer service – it’s a policy that guarantees that shoppers walk away happy, no matter what, and you get a big karmic kickback too. Sure, customer service could have told the man that they don’t sell tires, or maybe they could have tried to help him figure out where to return it, but instead they focused on satisfying the customer, above all else. I want more businesses like that.
Whenever it comes up in our business, we instruct people that they can request a refund through the App Store, but we also know that is a pain in the neck. So, in addition we offer to immediately process a refund via PayPal, and our only hope is that the user will keep the app and find it useful someday. It doesn’t matter to us whether you found a bug in one of our apps, you are just having a bad day, or your fortune teller told you iPhone apps are cursed. There is no invalid reason for a refund.
Maybe someday when my business is really big, I’ll find that people try and game us out of money, and we’ll need more onerous policies. But as long as we’re not going broke, that’s how we’re going to do it. I am always shocked by the goodness of our users in the face of this policy. Maybe that’s what Paul Graham means when he writes, “Go out of your way to make people happy. They’ll be overwhelmed; you’ll see.”
The response to a refund offer is usually not “yes, right away.” Only about 1 in 10 people will take a refund when offered, probably less. The much more likely response is reciprocal support and encouragement – from people who didn’t have a good experience with our software, but nonetheless want us to succeed. Or it also often ends up that we offer the refund, but we solve their problem in parallel, and they are doubly happy to know that we both care and will go to the mat to make sure they are satisfied.
And let’s be real here – I’m not selling cars or cigarettes, I’m selling software. It costs me exactly zero dollars to make each additional copy of my app, so if I can’t make money while still offering a money back guarantee, my software surely must suck. There’s no reason why a dissatisfied user shouldn’t get a refund when the marginal production cost is zero.
If you are a customer of ours, you can take that to the bank. And if you are an entrepreneur, I hope you do what we do – it’s the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, and the world will be a better place when all products, or software at least, works that way.