How to Turn Returns and Exchanges Into Sales
In the retail world, product returns and exchanges are a fact of life. Customers return items for a whole myriad of reasons; plenty of which have nothing to do with product quality.
With returns being such a big part of doing business in the retail space, it’s important that you and your staff know how to handle them. From store policies to staff training to learning opportunities, you can leverage each of these to create the best experience for customers and turn a negative into a positive.
While returns can seem like a net loss, there’s a hidden opportunity there. Capitalizing on that opportunity can help you turn returns and exchanges into a positive for your business — meaning you can create a great experience for shoppers and inspire customer loyalty all while recouping the potential monetary losses that come with returns.
There are several tactics you and your staff can draw on to help turn returns and exchanges into new sales. They all revolve around one thing: the customer experience.
Maintain a positive customer experience
One of the most obvious ways to maintain a positive customer experience is to avoid creating friction. Friction slows customers down, and generally offends the customers’ perception of your brand — and the chances they’ll become a loyal customer. To keep things positive and avoid friction, follow these best practices:
- Make returns convenient: Avoid making customers go through all kinds of unnecessary steps to return an item. If you sell online, let customers make returns in-store. Train all staff members to complete returns, so the process is quick and customers don’t have to search for the one customer service desk.
- Keep your return policy hassle-free: Every retail store needs a return policy to set appropriate expectations around returns and exchanges and mitigate risks like return fraud — but that doesn’t mean your return policy should cause extra hassle for customers. Be reasonable about the window of time customers have to return items and be flexible about the documentation required (i.e. receipts, tags, etc.)
Convert a return into an exchange
Understanding where customers are coming from when making a return is the number one key to turning a return into an exchange.
- Asking the right questions: To make the right recommendations (with the best chance of creating a positive experience for the customer), you need to understand their needs on a deeper level. That means asking more than the standard, “Is there anything wrong with the item?”
When the reason isn’t an outright problem with product quality, customers may not immediately offer a ton of detail here. But these are vital details that enable your staff to make the best recommendations for an exchange, so it’s important to probe around to really understand the motivation for the return.
Help your staff determine where the disconnect between customer expectations and the actual product lies. That adds valuable context for understanding the real reason this return is happening.
- Make recommendations: As a business owner you should spend ample time training staff on your products and how to cross-sell in a way that benefits the customer first and foremost. Train staff on the benefits of each of your products and help them understand about product groupings that often go together. Above all, train your retail staff on creative problem-solving. Train store employees to think on their feet and offer intelligent product suggestions.
When someone makes a return, that signals a disconnect between customer expectations and the reality of a product. By looking for patterns in shoppers’ return and exchange activity, you can identify the products that lead to returns most often.
That means you can address the problem before it leads to a return. You can set the right expectations for customers before they even make a purchase, leading to fewer returns and more satisfied customers.
If you don’t manufacture your own products, tracking patterns in returns and exchanges can also help you identify products that are low quality for one reason or another (inaccurate labelling, for example.) That means you can ensure your store only stocks the best products for your customers.
Customer returns and exchanges are part of the deal when you run a retail store — but they don’t have to take a chunk out of your business. By practicing empathy, training retail staff, and working to mitigate the underlying causes of returns, you can delight customers and boost your sales.
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