Can customers tell the difference between great customer service and just a liberal return policy?

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No questions asked, but are the customer’s questions answered?

There are powerful marketing campaigns among large retailers about their liberal return policies. The “customers” on the commercials have supposedly found their “retailer of choice” because of the new no-questions-asked return policy. So what if it has a lot of fine print at the bottom of the receipt!

Old news

First, the concept of a 100% return policy is not new. Many successful retailers have had a 100% return policy for years and some were even founded on this principle. Look at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom’s, L.L. Bean, Lands’ End. They’re no dummies. They understand that an honest and liberal return policy means a guarantee the customers will come back and refer others.

Second, customer service is not grounded on the basis of a return policy.


Good customer service and good return policies are not the same thing

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a distinction between the two in many customers’ minds. Yes, a good return policy is an integral part of customer service, but there can’t be an assumption that good customer service is a natural by-product of a good return policy.

No matter how great the return policy is, you have to back it up with great customer service and that means good help.

The best test for a customer is the service they receive up front. Return rates are dramatically reduced when good salespeople properly educate customers on product and the product is properly matched to the customer’s needs.

Train and Re-Train

I’ve said it over and over. Training should never stop. Knowledgeable salespeople result in satisfied customers since the product will fit the needs. And better training and better treatment of staff means lower turnover. The lower the turnover, the better trained and experienced your staff. Get my drift?

“Kindness to Staff Begets Kindness to Customers” – Tom Peters

Tom Peters has it right. When your staff is happy, your customers are happy. Slave driver owners / managers are beating themselves at their own game. Disgruntled employees are the most dangerous staff to have inviting bad customer service and employee pilferage.

SO here’s another famous quote:

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. ” Abraham Lincoln 

In other words, customers are not stupid. Don’t try to snow them claiming you have the best store because of your new return policy. If you don’t have the service to back that policy up, then it is meaningless.

And on the flip side, don’t be so foolish as to have a strict return policy that discourages customers from shopping with you. You aren’t losing the retail price. And it costs far more to try to lure in new customers than it ever will to please your existing customers for valuable repeat business.

And never, never forget that Social Media is extremely powerful among customers for spreading your reputation – good or bad – no matter what your return policy is!

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