After Christmas World Class Customer Service is Needed

Larry Galler

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Every business makes promises to customers. Those promises are put to the test in a peak season. All businesses have peak seasons and have to make good on their promises. Tomorrow is the start of the peak season for customer service personnel who work in retail businesses. It is the “return" season, the time of year that requires real gumption, patience, and courtesy. Exchanges are needed, refunds are requested, lines are long, and tempers get short. Policies and people are stretched. It is also a season that is a huge opportunity if it is handled right.

Returns are unavoidable. “I might have gained a few pounds so that shirt is the wrong size so I’ll exchange it for the right size. Oh, you are out of my size? I’ll take a refund and come back later. No, of course, I don’t have a receipt, it was a gift. " How this scenario is resolved will create a problem or an opportunity.

The manner in which returns and exchanges are treated determines how the company makes good on its promises. Those people who are on the front lines of return season, the clerks and customer service representatives can be the good-will ambassadors as they fulfill their company’s promises for quality, service, and convenience. If the promises are kept, the relationship between the customer and company is strengthened but if there is a problem, the company has probably lost a customer and might even have someone “telling everyone I know how terrible you have treated me. "

While it is probably unreasonable to expect 100% perfect customer service, the goal is to come as close to perfection as possible. Here are a few ideas to help get you closer to that ideal.

  • Return / exchange / refund policies should be easily communicated, understood and available at the time of purchase and of return.

  • Time to handle return must be minimal.

  • Have enough trained and empowered staff on hand.

  • A supervisor should be available to resolve any conflicts quickly.

  • Review all policies and training issues right after the rush.

    Seek a world class “return season" and it will be better next year!

    Larry Galler coaches and consults with high-performance executives, professionals, and small businesses since 1993. He is the writer of the long-running (every Sunday since November 2001) business column, “Front Lines with Larry Galler" Sign up for his free newsletter at Questions??? Send an email to

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