The Importance of Returns Staff to a Retail Business

Customer service is one of the most challenging and under-rewarded jobs on the planet. No joke. Those who’ve been there in the trenches know I’m telling the truth.

The lowlier the position is regarded, the worse it is. Consider those mean and nasty “low-lifes” you have to deal with when you buy a new cellphone, only to have it break after two weeks of use: Don’t you hate calling the nasty service rep who has to walk you through turning the phone off, removing the battery and sim, turning it back on — then when the phone still doesn’t work, that insufferable slug tells you that you have to pay (expedited) shipping to send the phone in for repairs? They talk to you like you’re a dumb child, then further insult you by telling you to pull your wallet out for something that should be covered under warranty!

Retail shop sign

The truth is, most are just doing their jobs as instructed. But these and other front-line service reps don’t have anything on the even lowlier returns reps.

At least “technicians” and sales associates are trying to help you accomplish a goal. Returns reps, no matter what capacity you find them in, are only doing their job to prevent you from returning an obviously defective or substandard product.  At least that’s what your customers are thinking….

Bounty of Valuable Feedback

Using the fact that most customers view your returns staff as the enemy actually works in your business’s favor. When they’re viewed as the decision maker by the customer, they’re privy to a lot of feedback that you wouldn’t otherwise get — about your own products or other manufacturer’s products that you sell in your business.

There’s simply no way to quantify the value of the information they’ll receive from the customer, who comes into a returns situation with enough negative details about a product, they could write a novel about said product.

This feedback can, if you let it, tell you exactly how to please that customer and others like them in the future.

Consider the feedback you can glean:

  • “I turned it on and smoke started pouring out the sides.”
  • “The handles loose and/or hard to hang onto.”
  • “The phones staticy or I hear echoes when talking to people.”
  • “The measurements on the box are wrong, it didn’t fit my ____.”
  • “The instructions are barely passable for English.”
  • “On the website it looked bright red, but after it arrived it was clearly magenta.”
  • “This food tastes like somebody dumped a bunch of chemicals in it.”
  • “It stopped working after the second time I used it.”

Your returns associates are key to the longevity of your business. They get the front-line story as to why the customer isn’t satisfied and want their money back.

This is why you want to hire the best, most patient, best-listening, great communicating customers for this all-too-important position. They have to show the customer that they (you) are open to listening to the issue and that you’re going to use their feedback to serve them better now, and in the future.

The human element really comes into play at the returns desk, even if your returns desk is nothing more than a remote employee type-chatting with a customer from thousands of miles away. Customers will be more honest and open when they’re actually talking to a real human being. Some will lie, but the folks who’re really returning a product because they’re unhappy with it will usually tell the unabashed truth.

As a retailer, this empowers you to improve upon what’s broken with your own product lines. You can get rid of products that aren’t working, stop paying for garbage from suppliers that customers have told you isn’t worth the price of the box that product comes in.

This is how you cultivate a reputable business. A business people want to come back to again and again.

Your returns staff are the face of your business. They’re also the future of any business committed to correcting their mistakes so customers rarely leave with a bad taste in their mouths.

What do you Think?

How important is a return staffer to a retail business?