I prefer stores with refund policies that give me peace of mind before buying. Amazon, Target, Home Depot — they’ll take back pretty much anything without a hassle. This not only benefits the customer but it benefits the store as well. Any loss from refunds is built into the cost of doing business so their is no real loss. They don’t just break even either. They make more money by maintaining happy customers. Happy customers come back to buy different things and often share with others how much they like a store.
I believe every commercial WordPress theme and plugin seller should have a money back guarantee and offer easy refunds because it benefits both the buyer and seller.
Some say no refunds on digital products because they cannot be "returned". I say digital products are the easiest to refund! #happycustomers
— Steven Gliebe (@stevengliebe) March 11, 2013
But Digital Products Can’t Be Returned
It’s true, files can’t be returned. Many theme shops have a refund policy that goes something like this.
Themes are non-tangible and therefore cannot be returned. All sales are final and no refunds are made. Please make sure you choose the right theme.
This might be reasonable since a customer could continue using a theme they got a refund for, but is it worth it? Another big theme shop doesn’t think so.
We offer refunds to any unsatisfied customer up to 30 days after the purchase was made. If you would like your money back, simply send us an email. Elegant Themes
My view is that since themes and plugins are non-tangible, they are actually easier to refund. There is no dealing with damage, missing parts, repackaging, etc. All the seller needs to do is give the customer their money back and cease to provide support/updates. We offer a 45 day refund period at churchthemes.com because it really is useful to try a theme to see if it is the right solution.
But We’ll Lose Tons of Money
One reason a WordPress theme or plugin seller might not offer refunds is because they are afraid if they do, they’ll be flooded with refund requests (even from fraudsters) and lose a scary amount of business. Concern is healthy but this just hasn’t been my experience and if it were a real problem then the big theme shops like Elegant Themes who offer refunds would not still be offering them today.
churchthemes.com has been online for about three months now. Customers have 45 days to try our first theme and if they’re not happy, they can simply ask for their money back. After three months and several hundred sales we’ve had a refund rate of 1.7%. A better way to look at this is that we hold onto 98% of the dough. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be any major loss here. Further, we set our price knowing that there would need to be some resources expended on refunds.
A Strong Refund Policy Increases Sales
Stores with strong refund policies make me feel safer than stores with rigid refund policies. I know I can get my money back if something’s not right.
A customer knows you care about meeting their needs when they see that they can get their money back for any reason. A strong anti-refund policy says the opposite. A customer may take that as meaning you won’t care if they’re happy or not because you get to keep your money no matter what. Having an “MBG” (Money Back Guarantee) increases customer confidence and therefore increases sales.
@churchthemes thanks! I bought it since you offer a MBG
— Dave Anderson (@dudenameddave) November 27, 2013
If you don’t have a strong refund policy and your competitor does, you’re at a disadvantage.
Your Reputation is Important Too
You don’t want unhappy customers. Have you seen online users ranting and raving about how a company completely ripped them off and kicked their dog? Some people make it their mission in life to destroy a company. They will tell everybody how terrible the company is. Most unhappy customers aren’t that extreme but the point is if there are enough moderately unhappy customers out there, your reputation will suffer. You’re in a bad position when your competitor’s reputation exceeds yours.
Your product will not be perfect no matter how hard you try. Do try hard but also give the customer a way out if you’re not meeting their needs. Simply give them their money back. There’s a real possibility that you can make that unhappy customer into a happy non-customer. My experience is that most customers are quite appreciative of a quick and courteous refund. They might consider one of your other products in the future or tell others about how you guarantee your work.
Do you want to be known as a company that milks their customers for all their worth or one that makes things right?
The Proper Way to Refund
Customers remember how you treat them and will keep that in mind when considering you again or speaking to acquaintances. Simply returning their money is not enough.
- Be as courteous as if it was a pre-sales inquiry
- Don’t try to change their mind and don’t ask pesky questions
- Initiate their refund immediately and tell them when to expect the funds
- Thank them for giving you a try and apologize if there was any inconvenience
- Ask them if they have any questions
In short, treat them how you would want to be treated. If you make the refund experience rough then you’re only making a less than ideal situation worse. If you make it easy then there is a good chance they will leave with a good impression. They will have gotten what they requested and will have been served with courtesy and respect.
The Future of Refunds
Some commercial WordPress theme and plugin providers have money back guarantees and some don’t. A few of the big shops like Elegant Themes, StudioPress and WooThemes do but still others big ones don’t. The landscape is similar among smaller sellers. I hope to see every provider offer refunds in the near future. There is very little to lose and much to gain for both the buyers and sellers.
Do you sell WordPress themes or plugins? How do you handle unhappy customers and refunds? If you don’t offer refunds now, will you consider it? Customers, what are your thoughts on refunds? Please share your perspective in the comments below.
Related: WP Tavern published an insightful article titled WordPress Businesses Should No Longer Fear Refunds with information on refund rates for popular theme shops.