I have a customer who returned an item without reading any of our Return instructions on our website. The instructions clearly state (in bold) that customers must email our customer support team for the address of the nearest return facility. This customer didn't do that (she didn't email us at all). She sent her item back to the dropshipper, which means I don't even have the item to inspect it to see if it has been worn.
How would you respond to this customer? I'd like to handle the situation gently, however she clearly didn't follow our return policy.
Although this customer didn't follow your return policy I would absolutely handle it "gently" rather than talking about the procedure. To be honest, I wouldn't even mention it to them and just take it as a learning experience this time.
So... you say the customer didn't follow the return instructions on your website, but at that point - when they have the product in their hands - they are not looking at your website. They've just opened the package, probably tried it on, but decided they don't like it and want to send it back.
The first thing they'll look it is the package it came in, and any invoice or packing slip that's included. Returns are so common for apparel that most retailers will include return instructions, and often pre-printed returns labels, in the package.
It's your job to make sure customers know how to return an item, so do all you can to make it easy for them.
There may also be something you can learn from this about how to reduce returns. If they got the sizing wrong, can you provide more information on sizing on your product pages? If they thought the fabric or detailing would be different, you could think about providing more detail photos or material percentages. Just some ideas.
@Andy The challenging part is that there was a packaging insert with the correct address to ship returns to. (In fact, she wrote her complaint about the product on the insert with the address on it.) I ended up chatting with the customer yesterday, and the resolution we came to was that she will pay the cost of having the product shipped from the warehouse back to our home location. I will deduct that amount from her refund once I've been able to inspect the item and make sure it hasn't been worn. She seemed happy with that resolution, and she even mentioned purchasing the item in a different size once her return is processed. I went ahead and bolded some content on our Returns page to try to highlight the procedure, as well.