5 Tips to Turn Returns into New Sales

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Once you sell a product or service to a customer, the last thing a retailer wants is to get that item back. However, your job is to delight the customers, and returns and refunds are a reality of retailing. Here’s how to turn those inconvenient returns into exchanges and avoid refunds by implementing these simple customer service skills.

Show Genuine Empathy

Remember the problem is not the problem. Meaning the return is not the issue. Its what is causing the return that matters. We tend to focus on fixing the "problem" but spend no time caring for the person. When we show genuine empathy and concern for the customer, we express regret that he or she had to make another trip to the store or take more time out of their already busy schedule to take care of this issue. Don't just apologize, empathize. Tell them why you are sorry.  

Listen and Learn

Start the return transaction by genuinely listening to the customer. This allows the customer to be heard and it’s your chance to understand the shopper’s needs. Once the customer is finished speaking, begin asking any unanswered questions to establish the reason for the return. Why is the item being returned? What is wrong with the item? What result is the customer seeking? Once the reason for the return is known, we can offer solutions to the problem.

Offer Suggestions

Now that we understand why an item is being returned, we can suggest alternative products or solutions. Would the shopper like a different style, color or size? Could a similar item serve the customer’s needs? Do we offer a better product than the one being returned? If so, make those suggestions. Be sure to mention the benefits to the customer. This isn’t just a return; it’s another opportunity to sell.

Cross-Sell and Up-Sell

If no substitution will satisfy the customer, all is not lost. Depending on the store’s return policy, it may be possible to offer in-store credit or gift cards instead of a cash refund. If you must provide a cash refund or credit card chargeback, consider offering accessories or related items to the customer. Without being pushy, mention current specials, best sellers or other products the customer may need. Is there an additional item he/she could use?

Exceed Expectations 

Not all returns can be exchanged. Many customers will only want their money back. That’s okay. After you’ve exhausted the above selling opportunities and you’ve satisfied the customer, the chances are good that he or she will return to shop with you another day.  So, if all else fails, give them a refund with a genuine smile. And thank them for their time. In my stores, we made the return as much fun as the sale. We wanted the last thought the customer had of us to be "I want to come back again" - which, after all, is the same thought we want them to think when they buy. 

Remember, an exchange is better than no sale, but a satisfied customer is more important than a return policy. Never let your employees be about "the policy." Encourage them to be about serving the customer experience. Customers today do not want their expectations met (satisfied) they want them exceeded.