A customer walks into your store with a piece of merchandise, asking for a refund. Assuming your company gives refunds (we’ll talk more about this at the end), here’s what you should do:

1. Smile and be happy.

Despite the fact that he (she) is not making a purchase today, he’s still a customer, and we want him to come back.

2. Find out why he is returning it.

If he simply picked up the wrong product, or the product didn’t do what he needed it to do, maybe you can find something that will fill the need. If the product didn’t function properly, you can express your empathy with the person and offer to give him another in hopes that it will function properly.

3. Thank him for coming in, and tell him you hope to see him again.

Let him know you appreciate the fact that he is a customer. It is your demeanour right at this moment that will largely determine how he perceives his experience, and whether he will return.

Simple process, right? Yet it’s amazing how many times we hear of people returning merchandise only to be made to feel like they’re annoying, or somehow doing something wrong.

What should you when you think a customer is trying to take advantage of you? Follow the same process as above. Yes, there are indeed customers out there who will actively try to scam us, but fortunately they represent just a tiny fraction of a percentage of our customers. It’s just not worth the risk in goodwill or poor customer word-of-mouth to treat someone like a potential criminal.

If your business does not accept returns, it creates a bit of a different challenge. When this is the case, empathy with the customer is your absolute first priority. Begin with “I wish I could…” or something similar. Avoid words and phrases like “it’s our policy” or “as it clearly states on the sign…” You’re already in a potentially confrontational situation. There’s no point in throwing gasoline on the fire.

As a final note, if you have a business that has a ‘no-return’ policy, you may want to revisit it. When you do a cost-benefit of these policies as they impact customer loyalty and long-term profitability, they very rarely make sound economic sense.

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