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Sketching e-commerce returns - pain points along the customer journey

Updated: Oct 30, 2018

A picture is worth a thousand words. I sketch user journeys and concepts captured during user interviews and conversations with stakeholders - on a whiteboard, on paper, on Post-Its - whatever's handy.

The toy example below shows how this method helps quickly and easily communicate user pain points to other stakeholders after the fact. It's a great way to align the team on the problem to be solved.

In this example, we go over one customer's journey from trying on clothes in a store, to buying them online, to returning an item with a tear in it.

customer journey map - sketch of a user trying on a dress, ordering it online, finding it's arrived torn
The customer documents clothing she likes with her cell phone, but later finds an item she ordered is defective

customer journey map - sketch of the user chatting online with a Macy's representative about the exchange process
The Customer Support Representative tries to be helpful by quickly and proactively addressing the customer's needs, but ends up complicating it more

customer journey map - sketch where the user packages the return and drops it into a UPS dropbox, only to have it get stuck in the chute
The customer must have access to certain materials to ship. Even then, more complications arise

customer journey map - sketch where the user has a frustrating email exchange with Macy's customer service
The customer receives some confusing and contradictory emails from customer support

Pain Points

  • Seam tears are a defect that is hard to spot upon opening the package and hanging up the clothing. Getting ready to wear an item for the first time only to find it has a tear can make customers angry.

  • The exchange process is more complicated and harder to find than the return policy

  • Shipping charges for exchanging defective items may be a fear

  • Lots of complicated, possibly stressful decisions to make when an item you wish to exchange is out of stock - return to store? return via mail? Exchange for an available size? Exchange for a different color?

  • Asking to undo a customer support representative's actions can be stressful

  • To return an item by mail, a customer must have access to a printer, an empty box, scissors, tape, enough time and transportation to get to a UPS drop-off point

  • Some UPS drop-offs are poorly designed and packages can get stuck in the chute

  • Automatic emails with old information about package activity can cause stress

  • Emails contradicting a previous support agent's interactions with the customer can cause stress


  • Customer first went to a physical Macy's location to try on outfits

  • Customer used cell phone's camera to remember clothing to look up later

  • Customer waited for an Amazon package to show up before mailing back the Macy's item

  • At least some UPS drop-off points contain free packing material that could be used for returning small enough clothing items

  • Some customers may prefer to drive to a local Macy's location to return it rather than finding all necessary packing materials

  • The hand-off between the original support agent and the second agent did not communicate that the transaction was not an exchange but a return


  • Sales tags can be designed to help find the item in the online store

  • Detailed information on exchanges can be more easily findable online

  • Support agents can give customers information on UPS drop-off points near them - whether they have free packing material, dimensions of the largest box that can fit, etc

  • Depending on financial feasibility, Macy's clothing could be shipped in packages that can be re-used.

  • Support agents can ask for permission before taking certain actions on the customer's behalf: (1) if the customer or Macy's representative would transfer money (2) if they're about to expend effort on the action (3) if the action is one of many resolutions and the customer still needs time to decide which resolution would make them happiest.

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