I work on the front lines assisting customers with selecting merchandise and offering up product knowledge. Most of the time, I am successful and make a sale. Fifteen percent of the time; however, customers refuse to purchase the item for a variety of reasons, such as wrong color, no available size, and price.
But when a sale is made, customers leave the store, happy and satisfied with their purchase. However, a few days, or even a few months later, customers return with the items. At this point, customers can be divided into two classes of people: the considerate and the forgetful.
The Considerate: These customers bring back merchandise that still has the tags on them. The items are still sellable. These customers also bring the receipt back, which is in mint condition. These customers are every sales person’s dream. The return is processed successfully. The customer receives their money back. The sales person might be able to convert the return to an exchange or sale, thereby creating a profit from a loss.
The Forgetful: These customers bring back a pair of shoes that have been worn every day for the past five months. Or a shirt that has been washed countless times. In other words, these items are unsellable. To make matters worse, they don’t bring a receipt. Or if they do, it has been run through the washer and dryer and the writing has rubbed off.
Store A has an unofficial policy that it accepts all returns, no matter the reason. Store A emphasizes the importance of customer service. According to them, the customer should never be told no. The customer should always be told yes, yes, of course we can do the return, anything for you. Store A bends over backward trying to satisfy the customer. But at what cost? Dignity? Reputation?
Store B has an official policy that all sales are final. There are absolutely no returns to be made. Customers complain but management stands firm. No, no, absolutely no returns. Again, this policy can help to damage the store’s reputation. Customers are less likely to shop there, which results in decreased profits and sales.
Both situations are extreme. Both situations are not ideal.
Instead, what needs to happen is this: a compromise, a middle ground should be established.
- Let management establish a return policy. What items can be returned? What cannot be returned? Can items be returned without a receipt? Specify if items have to be in sellable condition in order to be returned.
- Management should be firm and stand by the return policy. Exceptions can be granted in extraordinary conditions. Again, management needs to be clear on what these “extraordinary” conditions are.
- Before, during, and after the return, the management and store associates need to establish and maintain a relationship with the customer. Being friendly and interested in the customer’s needs can go a long way toward developing such a rapport.
Having excellent customer service is fueled by good relations with the customer. Get to know your customer and everything else will take care of itself.