Last updateTue, 17 Apr 2018 11pm

Modern Day Selling: Secrets to building a large & loyal customer base

Create a new focus and standard on returns/exchanges

I am writing this article on December 26th, the day after Christmas. Although our store is closed today, I know that tomorrow it will be filled with many returns and exchanges and I am not the least bit concerned.

Many sales associates dread “The Day After” and are often anxious and not looking forward to what is to come. How many sales will I lose? Will I be able to change people’s minds? How can I minimize my loses and keep the damage low? These are many of the thoughts of the standard sales associate headed into the few weeks after Christmas. It is often the least favorite time of year for many sales associates.

In this article I am going to offer some insight and set a new standard on how to take on the challenge of returns and exchanges. Sales training in the past may have taught you many tactics on how to manipulate the customer into trying to buy something else or keeping what they got. Some training wants you to use guilt into making the customer feel bad about returning a gift. Others have you badger the customer trying to get them to buy something else so you will leave them alone. In the 20 years I have been in the jewelry industry I have heard and seen-it-all, and I could not disagree more. Those methods are the worst possible way to build a customer base.

The first major flaw in this philosophy is it is all focused on the sales associate and not on the customer’s needs. It is fueled by greed and selfishness and will not help you achieve greater success in the long run. It may help you save a sale today, but I can assure you that the lingering effects will be devastating to you and your store environment.

The first negative effect is that the customer will most likely never shop with you again. In order to save one sale you have just lost the potential for multiple future sales. The second negative effect is the reputation that you will create within your community about shopping at your store. Customers always talk about their experiences with others and they are either saying good things about you or bad things about you.

Today I am going to share with you one of my most important secrets to building a loyal customer base. My philosophy in handling returns and exchanges creates a great opportunity to establish trust and build future business. I never lose focus that my job is to serve the customer and meet their needs. Every customer is greeted with a genuine smile and assured that it will be no problem to return or exchange an item (provided it is within the return/exchange policy). There are two scenarios where I will never attempt to try and save a sale:

1) The customer simply cannot afford it.

The spouse tried to do something special, but it put the family in a financial bind. Many sales associates try to offer financing or use guilt here. I will gladly take the return without any need for further explanation. Some of my biggest sales have come from customers who remembered how I made a return easy when they could not afford the purchase. When they were in a better financial situation they remembered me, or referred me to someone who could afford to buy fine jewelry.

2) The customer simply does not want jewelry.

The spouse tried to be nice and buy them something pretty, but the person they bought for simply does not want it. I will take it back without hesitation and with a smile.

Other than these two scenarios there will be opportunity to save the sale. The third and most common scenario is that the customer simply did not like what they received. It is here that most sales associates simply focus on saving the sale, but they could be doing so much more. I take the time to find what the customer really likes and encourage them to pick out a few things. Whatever they are not taking home with them will go on a wish-list to make future shopping easy for their spouse. Not only will your customer be satisfied and happy but the future shopper will have a stress free shopping experience. Making a sale could not be any easier. My customers are in and out in no time with a smile on their face.

I encourage you to see your return/exchange customer in a new light. Instead of seeing it as a negative, you have the opportunity to build your future business. Most customers entering your store with a return expect a hassle. My customers are always relieved and pleasantly surprised when I take care of their return without hassle. I have even had customers say they felt guilty returning something but I made them feel better about it. If you can handle returns with class and dignity it will create future business and set a new standard of excellence within your store. If the customer feels respected and served it will create a special bond and loyalty that will last. It also will give your store a great name within the community.

Brian Barfield is a two-time published author, worldwide, who specializes in offering fresh new insight in retail sales training. Modern Day Selling offers a unique perspective in teaching sales associates how to reconnect with their customers and how to achieve greater success in their sales career. For more information please visit his website www.moderndayselling.com. Brian also offers in-store sales training and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.