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How To Deal With Returns in Retail

Nov 04, 2020

Women returning product

Running a retail business can be supremely rewarding when a customer finds a clothing item or other product that is exactly what they need. However, there are times when customers need to take home a few sizes or styles to figure out which best suits their figure. Then, when they arrive at the store to give you back those they don’t want, you must be ready to handle their request. Here is how to deal with returns in retail.

Accommodate the Customer

If you’ve worked in any forward-facing job, you have likely heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” Though many customers can be challenging to engage with, it is, nonetheless, an appropriate motto. Your customers trust you with their style and product choices, so it is a necessary service to accept any items they do not want. Difficulties with returns or a straight-up inability to return can dissuade customers from returning to your establishment, so look for ways to accommodate the customer, even if you cannot reclaim the item.

Know Your Limits

The work of accommodating the customer has a definite end, so management should work to determine the maximum the company will do for the customer. Communicate these parameters clearly to returns employees and uphold them without exception unless a manager gives explicit permission. Set up limits that pertain to the product’s condition, presence of tags, and the date of purchase or delivery. These parameters exist for the sole benefit of the company itself. There will always be customers who push for wiggle room, but helping your staff know the boundaries and remain resolute will allow them to do their jobs more effectively. Also, consider posting signage about your return policy and printing it on customer receipts. A clear set of expectations will keep the returns line moving quickly, especially during busy holiday months.

Understand the Financial Impacts

Returns create a confusing situation when it comes to your finances. A customer buys several sizes of the same item and ends up returning one or two. But depending on the price of each item and how many returns you receive, it could put a sizeable dent in your monthly profits. When they go back in your stock, it upsets part of the system, and your finances must ebb and flow with the returns. For this reason, it’s important to have quality retail accounting software—like what we have at Business Software Solutions—that can not only process the returns themselves but also reflect any analytical differences in the periodical financial reports.

Watch for Serial Returners

Serial returners are those people who consistently buy a dozen sizes of everything and return most of their purchases after they try everything on at home. Serial returners also include those who impulsively buy more than they can afford and later end up rescinding the entirety of their purchase. This behavior can also take the shape of wardrobing—where an individual buys a high-priced item for a single-use without removing the tags and then returns it with employees none the wiser. Regardless of the type of serial returner you encounter, you’ll need to understand what to do about them. Many companies have moved to enact lifetime bans on any serial returners, while others choose to live with the nuisance. Decide which policy best reflects your business, and take a firm stance against fraudulent behavior.

Be Wary of Scams

Most people returning items in your store are legitimate customers who are offering back part of the merchandise they previously bought. However, there are those who seek to scam unsuspecting staff by bringing in merchandise from another store and returning it for a profit at yours. To discern these malicious scams, it takes perspicacious and subtle tact. Train employees to look for the warning signs and teach them a few things to say in those situations. It also helps to have store security personnel or other managers on call to help. Research various tactics and tells to handle these situations with grace and firmness so that you do not alert nearby customers.

Implement Return-Lessening Plans

Whether you exclusively sell clothing or you also dabble in cosmetics, toys, or games, retailers can implement plans that will lessen the number of returns they see. The first thing to consider is accessible and easy-to-use fitting rooms. Be sure to provide options for both men and women to try on their clothes in privacy and safety. If a customer can try on the clothes at the store, they do not need to bring home the sizes that do not fit. This one change will effectually decrease the number of exchanges and refunds at your store. Also, increase the number of ways customers can interact with your products, especially non-clothing items. Allow spaces for children to play with toys and people to test out cosmetics. Sample products will both encourage the customer to purchase the item and decrease the likelihood of a return.

Prevent Customers From Purchasing Incorrect Items

Many shoppers, particularly online ones, will be looking for specific products at your store. However, if they are unable to find what they want, many customers will end up ordering or purchasing more than they need in order to figure out which is correct. To prevent customers from getting the wrong items, include more description in your online product details. Be sure to represent the product’s dimensions, sizing guides, colors, materials, and fit, all to cater to the consumer’s preferences. A well-written description can save you big on unnecessary packaging and shipping costs.

Use Cross-Channel Returns

Cross-channel returns refer to a business allowing in-store customers to return items through the mail and online customers to return items in-store. Many retailers, especially those with several locations, will have differing inventory at their stores and e-commerce warehouses. Because of these discrepancies, you may keep one brand only in the store and not at the online warehouse. However, allowing cross-channel returns will make it easier for the customer to return their items and decrease the number of returns staff spend valuable time handling.

Understanding the nuances of how to deal with returns in retail can save you from challenging customer interactions. With the right approach, returns can be a valuable service that your business provides, so continue perfecting your strategies. If you ever have any questions about the technological side of returns, reach out to one of our professionals at Business Software Solutions.

Infographic on returns

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