A Clear Returns Policy + Smiling Staff = Good Customer Service

The rush of crowds buying, buying, buying has now turned into sales season and returns, returns, returns. Despite the unpleasantness this means for your staff (and cash register), your customers still expect to see a friendly smile on the retail floor. It can be tough. Returns hurt and exchanges can be challenging for in-store inventory and displays.

Yet, every challenge also presents an opportunity.  This is the perfect time for your store to be in tip-top shape and to win your customers’ loyalty with amazing service. Hopefully you started the year with a clear, easy to understand return and exchange policy. A clear policy will ease any confusion customers may have about what can and cannot be exchanged.

If your return policy is not clear and easy to understand you can fix it.  Here are some tips as to how:

Make sure employees working the cash register have a clear understanding of your returns and  exchange policy so they can handle it properly and easily. Here is a good example from Great Outdoor Provisions on instructing staff on how they should handle customer service issues such as repairs.  It also communicates that specialty brick and mortar stores are often the recipients of mail-order/web based purchases gone awry. Take this as an opportunity to create a positive customer service experience. http://greatoutdoorprovision.com/about-us/our-guarantee/

  • Help encourage exchanges rather than returns. Employees should be instructed to offer customers the opportunity to browse the store and look for something in exchange for what they are returning.
  • Happy, smiling employees are a must. Remind employees to smile and thank all customers, even when they are leaving the store empty-handed but with a thicker wallet.
  • While customers may leave the store without a shopping bag, they don’t need to leave empty-handed. Provide them with an incentive coupon for an upcoming sale or special event that will bring them back to your store.
  • Give great customer service! A wise retailer once said, “A customer with a return is a returning customer.” Black Creek Outfitters has even nicknamed it “Operation Peaches” –  a.k.a. within reason, give the consumer what they’re asking for.

Measure up. What does the typical return policy look like for the majority of Outdoor Specialty Retailers?

Most limit returns to 30 or 90 days

With receipt – Returns can be made within the 30 or 90 day limit, and the customer gets credited back via their original method of payment (cash, credit, debit, or gift card).

Without receipt – The majority of retailers will not take return items unless there is a manufacturer flaw. But they will make an exchange.

The majority of outdoor specialty retailers have a 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy. If a product does not meet expectations, it may be returned for a full product return or an exchange. The exceptions to this are consistent among retailers.

The majority of retailers list a few final sales items that cannot be returned (due to safety/hygiene laws).

NO returns on the following items/categories:

  • Climbing gear with a load bearing component (including ropes) cannot be returned or   exchanged.
  • Underwear & Swimwear cannot be returned for hygienic reasons.

General Guidelines for Returns: The majority of return policies state that returns are “Subject to Store Discretion.”  Most policies state that returns must be in new condition, with their original packaging, all tags still attached and no signs of use.

It might be helpful to note that “Subject to Store Discretion” is used more often than not. Stores lean much more toward taking back used items if there is customer dissatisfaction. Customer Service is king in specialty retail!

—  65+ Independent Outdoor Retailers return and exchange policies were reviewed.