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Friday, 22 March 2013

Four Steps to Stopping a Return in Its Tracks | Customer Returns Featured

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customer-returnsHow to Get a Customer to Leave with the Same Product They Wanted to Return

A failure to approach returns the way you approach sales is causing you to lose customers. I don’t want to sugar coat that fact because, not only is this a serious hole in most business strategies, but this gap in customer service is fixable. When you consider the cost of attracting a new customer—which is five times greater than the cost of keeping an existing one—why wouldn’t you fix something that’s costing you so much money?

By training your staff to effectively manage customer returns, you can reduce incidences by up to 25 percent. Often this means sending the customer home with the very product they intended to return. We’ve developed four simple steps to help you train your employees to best handle returns and ensure customer satisfaction. 

1. Understand the Product and the Customer

Very few returns are the result of a faulty product. The majority occur when a customer doesn’t understand the product, buys the wrong product, or has expectations beyond the product’s capabilities. So it’s absolutely critical that your team members not only understand the products they’re selling but also ask customers pertinent questions to determine each customer’s unique needs. While this seems like basic training, we’ve found that 85 percent of all sales associates fail to take this simple step. Send the customer home with the right product, and you greatly lower product returns.

In addition to uncovering a customer’s unique needs, another critical component of successful selling is speaking to customers rather than over them. Speak to customers in a way they understand. While your employee may know everything there is to know about terabytes, customers may have no idea what that means to them. In order for them to fully understand the product and whether it meets their expectations, they want to know how many songs or videos a terabyte translates to, as well as how the product will integrate into their daily lives. 

2. Empathize with Customers

When customers do have to return a product, they assume they’re going to have to fight to get their money back. Their defenses are up. Your team’s job is to lower those defenses. Rather than immediately asking a customer for her receipt, train your team to be empathetic, saying something like, “It looks like you have a problem. How can I help you?”

Asking for a receipt first makes customers feel like they are the problem. This will keep their defenses high and decrease the likelihood of salvaging the sale. Allow customers the opportunity to blow off steam if necessary. Asking empathetic questions and encouraging them to talk about their problem will make them feel valued, knocking down their defenses and increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome for everyone involved.

3. Reassure the Customer that the Problem Will be Resolved

After you have an understanding of the customer’s problem, explain that you’d like to ask some follow-up questions to make sure it’s resolved and does not occur again.

By asking follow-up questions, you can determine if the product was at fault, the customer’s expectations didn’t align with the product, or the customer returned the product because it was cheaper elsewhere.

4. Redirect the Sale and Keep the Customer

Once you understand the real reason behind the return, you can take the appropriate action to resolve your customers’ issues.

If customers misunderstand the product, you can call an experienced sales associate over to train them on the product, saying something like, “Oh, Jim is great at fixing x, y, or z. Mind if I call him over to take a look?”

If the product is defective, let your customers know you’ll alert the manufacturer so the problem can be resolved. Although they will still return the product, it reassures them that you do in fact value their business.

Ninety percent of customers will not tell you they’re bringing a product back because they found it cheaper somewhere else. If customers are adamant that they just wants their money back, mention that approximately one third of customers brought the same product back after finding it cheaper elsewhere. Then offer to give a price match so the customer buys the product from you instead of your competition. While the customers get a lower price, they’re also walking away with the same product and a feeling that they were well taken care of.

By listening to your customers and resolving their problems, you’ll decrease the incidences of product returns and increase the likelihood that your customers will return.


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Bill Stuart

Bill Stuart is CEO of Stuart & Associates, a retail consulting firm specializing in Sales and Margin Growth Programs and Returns Reduction Programs.

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