You can spot them a mile away. The dreaded shopping bag boasting your logo walking TOWARD your store. And you brace yourself for the inevitable.
"I just have a quick return to make!"
Gone is the busy Christmas season, but with its close comes the start of the holiday returns window. While no retailer likes seeing a negative number pop up on their POS dashboard, it's reassuring to know that an average of 70% of returns are converted to sales. We spoke with Samantha Salamack, Director of Stores for multi-location apparel retailer Resort Retail Group, about how to deal with customer returns and her advice for turning them into opportunities.
1. Never, ever show your disappointment or annoyance at a return. Show empathy and ask why it didn't work for them. Understanding their preferences will help drive a new sale. Refrain from asking if they'd like to look around for something else; rather—as your bandwidth allows—Salamack suggests taking action first:
"Let's find something else for you."
"l'll get you the correct size."
"Did you see that it comes in this color?"
2. Make it easy for the customer and yourself. Neither the gift giver nor receiver wants to deal with keeping track of a passed around gift receipt. The more customer data you collect at the point of sale, the easier it will be to later locate a transaction receipt. If they can tell you who purchased the gift, a good retail POS system will be able to pull up that customer's purchase history within a matter of seconds.
3. Showcase what's new. Often, new product will have arrived between the time your customer made their original purchase and the return date. Take this opportunity to introduce them to any fresh arrivals. They may walk out spending more than they had initially!
70 percent of online shoppers make an additional purchase when they returned an item to a store.¹
4. Think of gift returns as a positive, traffic-driving source. Holiday returns are bound to bring in completely new customers who may not have otherwise been introduced to your store. Take advantage of this audience, and be sure to capture their information using your retail CRM software. To learn which data points you should be collecting and how you can use these to boost customer retention, click here .
5. Find balance when crafting your holiday return policy. While you likely don't want a red and green plaid shirt purchased on Black Friday to come back to you on March 1st, consumers realistically need a return window that extends at least 2-4 weeks into the new year. Return policies are one of the top factors customers consider when debating a purchase, and "people are going to buy more if they know there is leniency," says Salamack. Make sure it is clearly displayed in your store, on your website and on all receipts, and if it's different from your non-holiday return policy, instruct staff to verbally communicate it at the time of purchase.
6. Keep track of exceptions. Maybe the tag was removed. Maybe it was two days past the return deadline. Know when to throw the towel in and grant an exception, but take note of it: Record any special cases you honor on the customer's profile in your POS system. If they make a habit out of abusing the policy, you can (and should!) cease to make exceptions.
Remember, any opportunity to bring a customer into your store is good thing, and a positive return experience is a surefire way to create a return customer.