Recognizing the escalating call volumes with wait times reaching up to an hour, Costco revamped its self-service returns and introduced a new self-service replacements feature. This resulted in a 48% adoption rate for self-service returns and a 12% adoption rate for self-service replacements, significantly reducing call volumes by 83% for returns and improving customer satisfaction.

CompanyCostco WholesaleServicesUX DesignYear2020

The Challenge

  • Excessively long wait times: Call volumes to the Member Service Center have wait times of up to an hour, causing frustration and dissatisfaction among customers.
  • Inadequate communication: Existing communication channels fail to provide clear instructions, leaving customers confused and uncertain about the return process.
  • Limited functionality: The current self-service return platform lacks the ability to initiate item replacements.
  • Anticipated holiday surge: The impending holiday season of 2020 is expected to increase the call volume issue, further straining the Member Service Center's capacity.

Goals & Objectives

  • Reduce call volume: Enhance self-service returns and introduce self-service replacements to minimize call center traffic.
  • Enhance self-service returns: Streamline and optimize the self-service return process with dynamic questioning for explicit communication output.
  • Real-time inventory check: Ensure item availability for replacements through real-time inventory tracking.
  • Enhance automated emails: Keep customers informed about the status of their requests with clear information.
  • Cohesive user experience: Align self-service return designs with the new 2020 website redesign.

My Role

I was the lead UX designer who initiated the discovery of the anticipated additions, crafted the user flows for all returns scenarios, and created designs and prototypes for development and presentations.

I worked on a team with Business Analysts, Solution Architects, Front & Back-end Developers, QA Testers, Business Stakeholders, and a Project Manager.


Competitive Analysis

Among research of recent UX trends as well as finding analysis on Baymard, I did some real-world research by creating returns with some of the top retailers and competitors to Costco.

Every retailer studied had its own style of how to initiate a return. This helped me in creating the best user experience for Costco’s returns and replacements updates.


Working with the stakeholder, new reasons for returns were created alongside introducing item replacements. I created a high-level user flow to better understand the multitude of possible scenarios.


With the updated design, input fields show progressively as the user fills them in. This helps the visibility of the items on the page at first glance.

This is also helpful because some of the Reasons for Return will trigger a second response before the comments input box.

Starting a Return

The user will begin in Order Details to start their return. Logic is already in place that certain items can and cannot be returned together. Once the user selects the items they want to return or replace, they click the Return or Replace Selected Items button and they are taken to a new screen with those selections.

If an item has more than one quantity then the quantity selector is shown. As the user fills out the input fields, other fields show progressively depending on the selection.

Finalizing a Return

Once the user fills out all necessary input fields and chooses between Refund or Replace, they press the Continue button.

This will show their Return Summary at the top while they choose their Return Method below. The user can also update the pickup address if they want UPS to pick up their item.

Once they submit their return, they are taken to a confirmation screen with a step-by-step process for how their return will work. Here, they can also print their UPS label (if eligible), find a UPS location, as well as view the return summary before exiting the page.

An email from Costco is sent as a confirmation with the return summary, and (if applicable) UPS will automatically email the return label to the user.

Self-Service Returns Demo

Company Impact

The implementation of the updated Self-Service Returns and Replacements has significantly helped Costco Member Service Center reduce calls regarding returns. Not only with the updated design and flow, but verbiage updates and member communication have helped 83% of the call volume for returns.

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