6R Retail

How to… Make Returns work for you

- Posted: July 13th, 2015

I have a very reluctant shopper in the form of a 14 year old boy at my house

I am told, there will be a point in the future where he is much more interested in appearance than the current slouching about in tracky dacks suggests, but until this manifests itself I am stuck. Shopping with my son is like taking an old blind arthritic dog who wants to stay at home and lie on the couch for a walk.

Not fun :/

So, when he announced that none of his pants fit him anymore I jumped online and bought him 3 pairs from the Cotton On teen range, hoping that this would mean a quick and easy solution to that problem.

Unfortunately when the parcel arrived he had grown (or maybe I was deluded from the start) and the size that I bought didn’t fit. So I called customer service; the representative informed me that any of the kid’s stores would be able to take back my purchase, since not all of their stores carry the teen range. No problem, so I am near Chatswood Chase, can I go there? Sure can says the lady on the phone.

Sorted.

I head to Cotton On at Chatswood Chase, explain the conversation I have had on the phone.

The sales associate is reluctant to take back the goods; no she is pretty sure that she cannot process those as they don’t carry them in the store. There is some back and forth between the two people in the store and I waiver on the brink wondering if this is going to turn into one of ‘those’ situations where end up giving the clothes to charity and swearing that you’ll never shop in that place again.

The more senior person concludes that they should process the return.

Yay! I do an internal happy dance and mentally start purchasing sparkly ballerina skirts even though there is no obvious recipient for such a purchase in my life. Now I don’t have to traipse off to far flung stores or to ring customer service again or feel like I am going around in circles. It’s all good; they deal with it there and then and I walk out feeling like I have ticked something off the list, (although I am still to find pants for the 14 yo).

What is worth noting here is the emotional reaction to that moment of trepidation, where I was wondering…

are they going to deal with this and make it painless… ‘or’

And ‘or’ could be anything, but the reality of the situation is, that whatever the ‘or’ is I don’t want to do it. And if the seller makes returning something unnecessarily difficult then it really bothers me, and I get rather stroppy and generally refuse to shop there for a good long time.

So well done Cotton On, it was great to have the return dealt with.

Funnily, I am now left wondering if I would have felt quite so delighted if I hadn’t have had that moment of ‘they’re not going to help me’ in my mind…

This is a real experience with a retailer (although told from my own point of view).

On reflection it brings up some important points for returns processes in terms of #people and #process.
Often, returns particularly for online businesses can be an overlooked or poorly executed part of customer service.

Whilst this story had a happy enough ending it is not my preferred process for returns. Some notes to consider in making returns work for you and keep it simple.

#people and #process

People in the form of both customer (me) and staff (customer service and store) want things to be clear from the outset. Some key points here for retailers

  1. Communication consistency; whatever your policy or process it should be clear to customer service at head office and store staff.
    In our world of colliding channels, it’s easy to miss a scenario and there might not be a ‘step by step idiot proof guide’ for every situation (like there wasn’t for mine).
    This is when it’s helpful to have some general ‘guiding principles’ that help staff to make good choices. Some high level ‘make it easy for the customer to deal with you’ should trump any situation that is out of the ordinary or a little left field. Make sure your staff have some clear guiding principles in place.
  2. Hire well and hire for attitude. When it comes to attitude versus skills I choose positive attitude every time… it’s great if people come with all the skills that you need but if they don’t have the right attitude this is a much harder thing to change. Attitude is critically important for those who present the face of your business.
    This is a good list of qualities and skills that create positive customer experiences even when there is no specific policy to follow.
    The inability to use positive language (#5) is one of my pet peeves in a store (and in life). It should be obvious – don’t tell me what you CAN’T do, tell me what you CAN.
  3. Lastly, the returns process should be simple and easy. Take the time to review yours and make it simple for customers and staff alike. Encourage customers to return items as soon as they have decided that the purchase is not for them for whatever reason. My personal favourite it to include an addressed envelope or sticker that gives the customer easy steps to follow.

Need to do a process review on returns? We can help you with that! Drop us a line, we would love to hear from you.

Image sourced from unsplash. Converse Fields by Ilham Rahmansyah

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