Effectively Handling Retail Refunds and Exchanges: Part Two

Returns are an inconvenience for both retailers and consumers.  However, they do happen.  So it makes sense to not only make your returns process as painless as possible, but to also make sure that your retail sales associates have the skills and training required to successfully turn dissatisfied customers into raving fans.  In our last article we examined some guidelines that you should use when developing your return policies and procedures.  In this post we will look at some of the specific tactics your retail sales representatives and customer service team members should implement when dealing with irate or difficult customers..

Step One: Understand and Communicate the Lifetime Value of a Customer

Whenever you are dealing with an irate customer it is easy to allow yourself to get into an emotional state.  But when you and your retail sales representatives understand the long-term sales value of a customer they will not only temper their emotional responses, but will make extra efforts to solve the current problem and prevent future issues from occurring. 

To do a simple calculation of lifetime sales value, take your average sale amount and multiply it by the number of times a typical customer comes to your store each year.  Then multiply that number by 4 (the average customer moved once every 4 years).   The number will likely surprise both you and your team members. 

Step Two: Remember That Irate Customers are Not Mad at You…They are Made About the Problem

Emotional customers will take out their frustrations on you.  But you and your retail team members need to remember that good customer service starts with understanding the root causes of the problem.  Your customers are upset because they have been inconvenienced, feel victimized, or cheated in some fashion. 

Identify and acknowledge the issues for the customer and then identify the root cause.  Once you do that you can begin to solve the root cause and turn an irate customer into a raving fan.  So stay calm, let the customer vent, tell them you want to help, and then take action.

Step Three: Teach Customer Service Reps to Use the H.E.A.T. Method

H.E.A.T is an acronym that will help you to train retail employees to put the principles of great customer care into practice.  Train them to mentally tick off each stop of the process in their minds when working with a difficult customer.  

          H = Hear the customer out so that they will calm down

          E = Empathize with your customer’s situation and acknowledge the issues

          A = Assess and plan your response before speaking

          T = Take action once you know what you can do to solve the problem

Step Four: Give Team Members Authority to Act

In our last article we spoke about policies.  Policies are rules that are designed to cover 90% of the common issues that happen in a retail store.  That means that 10% of the time you and your retail staff will need to work outside of the policy.  So be sure to give your team members some guidance as to potential solutions they can implement for those unusual cases.



David Goodwin is the principal at Retail Advocacy Group and Retail Training Services.  With over 30 years experience operating hundreds of retail stores and training thousands of retail sales representatives he and his team are focused on helping retailers improve their sales and operational efficiency so they can grow their revenue and profits.  To learn more about their training and retail operations consulting programs please visit www.retailertrainingservices.com.