They’re Good For You
Most consumers have
had reason to return an unsatisfactory product at some point in time. Maybe
it was defective, or a bad fit, or the wrong color, or they found it for a
better price, or maybe they simply changed their mind. For some, returning
merchandise is no big deal. For others it isn’t so easy. Consumers have
plenty of reasons not to return something. Some of these are inconvenience,
uncertainty regarding the company’s policy and even fear of embarrassment
due to mistreatment by store personnel. Some believe that, if they do take
the product back to the store they will have to be ready for a fight.
Is it any wonder,
then, that some go on the offensive as soon as they enter the store carrying
the product? For some reason the customer is not satisfied with their
purchase. They parted with their money and, in return, they had an
expectation of performance or benefit. Why on earth should they have to
fight, or risk embarrassment and abuse if that expectation is not met?
If they’re back,
product in hand, obviously their expectation was not met and they are not
satisfied. Only the most arrogant of retailers would ignore this fact. And
it is a fact regardless of the concern. The customer is not satisfied and
that is indisputable. Forget the reason – it’s simply not relevant. The
whole idea is to ensure that you satisfy at this point. Take the opportunity
to turn a refund into a sale.
I know that there are
people in the retail industry saying “yes, but…”. To these people I say,
again, that the customer returning a product is not satisfied and that is
indisputable. That is all you need to know. It’s all that matters.
I do not intend to go
into the matter of customers who abuse retailers’ policies. Those situations
are entirely different and immaterial in the scope of things. Nor will I
address the issues created by those retailers with unfriendly customer
service and return policies. Those retailers are creating their own
difficulties. Enough said.
So, what should
retailers do to ensure that all their staff members get it? You know…the
execution part of the customer friendly return policy?
Here is the answer:
If you haven’t officially done so
already, develop a great, easy-to-interpret, customer friendly
Make sure every employee knows and
clearly understands the policy – including the receptionist,
mailroom and accounting personnel, clerical and management staff at
Head Office, the warehouse workers at the Distribution Centre, the
Web Design team and all those who keep the on-line end of the
business running, the stock people, sales associates and
merchandisers and management at store level and anyone else that
receives a pay check from your company. Absolutely everyone.
Ensure that all employees know why
the policy was developed and how it benefits the organization.
Repeat the message often and very
clearly; communicate the message in every possible form and at every
possible opportunity. Post it everywhere.
Establish a procedure to check that
the policy is being applied.
Reward success. Consistently.
Teach all employees to make judgments
in favor of the customer whenever the policy appears to be vague.
Returns are good for your
business. The customer who went to the trouble to make the return is talking
to you. Take advantage of the opportunity to satisfy! Most companies pay
huge amounts of money for customer-to-company communications such as focus
groups, polls, customer response surveys, comment cards, etc. And it is all
in the effort to find out what the customer has to say.
Treat the return
customer with respect. S/he is actually coming to you and volunteering
valuable feedback. How great is that?
Make sure your front
line personnel understand their obligation to act on behalf of their company
and follow the friendly return policy every single time they are faced with
a return. Make sure they understand that they absolutely do not have the
right to make your customers uncomfortable during this critical point of
Just because you have
a great, customer friendly return policy doesn’t mean that it is of any
value to your organization. Unless customers see it in action, at the cash
desk, it might as well not exist.
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