What's Your Return Policy? Is it working?

Quality survey form on a deskIt is a question that is on the mind of anyone shopping for a product or service. Sorry, but mine is a trick-question. I am talking about what should be at the core of your Company's mission: Your policy about returning customers. I think losing a customer is "business suicide". Keeping customers coming back, on the other hand, is a form of art perfected by every successful company. Does a "lifetime" guarantee ensures success? I doubt it. We've become accustomed to "returning stuff" and more often than not, you can pretty much return anything unless it is a major capital purchase like a car or a house.  So the key to having customers return has nothing to do with money-back guaranteed. It has everything to do with the buying experience.

Every time I shop for a car, I find it comical that salespeople are instructed to "don't let him leave the showroom without buying a car". It is a complete denial of our right and obligation to shop around and get the best deal we can. And, if you're not ready to be despite the pressure and about to be "released" the manager shows up for final words of wisdom and one more squeeze. If they are going to leave without buying anything, at least they can feel guilty about it.

How often do we feel uncomfortable even as we exercise our right to just leave. We didn't even buy anything and already the "shopping experience" is a turn-off. The key to having customers return, is to first convert them to customers. Really, it's that simple. Give them a taste of who you are, the value you offer and the most important aspect of any buying experience - that you respect and support their pursuit of an informed buying decision.

How many companies make the mistake of thinking that because you bought once, you'll buy again. Not a chance and not in this lifetime. It is all out there for buyers to get educated. We must earn the right to win their trust and their business every single time.

During our last new car search, we actually returned to the same dealer. They rightfully acknowledged and thanked us for coming back. Nice first step. But what ensued, was the "same old" process. What if, the manager actually showed up at our desk to personally thank us for coming back. What if, he asked us what we liked or didn't liked during the past 4 years of servicing the car there? (sales closing tip: Let the customer sell themselves). What if he said "we would be honored to serve you for another four years, but regardless of whether you buy here or not, I'd like to personally thank you for giving us this opportunity so please accept this pen as a token of our appreciation". Wow.

So, how about hanging out a sign or handing out "Our Policy About Returning Customers"?

  1.  We guarantee to do everything we can to make you a lifetime customer
  2. Our "return policy" requires that we exceed your expectations so you never hesitate to come back
  3. Our small print is too small for you to read. But it says that we hope we never disappoint you. We want you to come back, always.
  4. And,  "in the unlikely event of a sudden loss of service, we will own-up to our mistake and return our attitude and performance levels to their straight and upright position". We promise to restore your customer experience and earn the right to service you again.