‘Tis the season of returns and exchanges…..

Brace yourself for January. It’s a time of changed minds, wrong sizes, wrong gifts and cheeky customers all trying to rework their December decisions.

How you treat a customer when they come in with something for return or exchange leaves a lasting impression on that customer. There is no point being a smiley sweet customer service person when it’s a sale, then huffing and puffing and eye rolling when it’s a return. And the same goes for your employees. Put those rules in now with everyone in your team.

Yes it hurts your sales and your cashflow, yes it’s a little frustrating when sales are low in January and you have to refund people, but remembering that the person who received a gift with a gift receipt and has taken the time to look for your store, visit and ask to exchange something, is a perfect potential new customer for you. They may not spend any extra on this visit, but for sure if they like the look of your products and enjoy their experience, they will be back. The same goes for a customer returning perhaps extra gifts they purchased but didn’t need. Treat them with the same respect you did when they were purchasing and keep them as a valued loyal customer long term. They will be back.

What about when the item is not in a fit condition to resell?

This is a trickier one but remember, facial expressions say everything. Don’t judge them, don’t whisper with your colleagues just politely explain that as you are unable to resell that item due to XYZ, it isn’t possible to offer them a refund on this occasion. Apologize, regardless whether it’s your fault, just apologize for the inconvenience and try to smooth out the situation. All eyes are on you when handling this kind of customer exchange and other customers in the store will be listening. 

The new way of shopping is to buy without thinking too much and just return if you change your mind. Longer and longer return times are given by larger retailers and independent retailers just can’t keep up with those same promises. All you can do is help people make good purchase decisions at the time of sale and have your sale and return policy very visible instore or online. It has to make sense for your business but ultimately you can’t operate in today’s retail environment without fairly lenient return policies.

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