Here’s How to Keep Customers Coming Back for More

...it's really not that difficult

A long-term repeat customer is the goal of every business, one who continues to purchase from you time and time again. But what is it that keeps them coming back?

keep customers coming back

Is it low prices, a continual stream of coupons, loyalty programs, or late night operating hours? These are all good ways to attract a customer, but are these enough reasons to gain their trust and make them truly loyal?

What about a simple return policy; a policy where the customer is not forced to espouse the failed merits of the product in order to justify returning the item? Seems simple enough.

I’m not talking about the famous ways retain giants Nordstrom, Zappos or L.L. Bean go above and beyond to make their returns easier, even if you don’t have a purchase receipt. I’m taking about standing by your policy, whether overtly stated or not, about returning an item.

Case in point…

Since the holiday season is quickly approaching, my thoughts go back to a situation last year as I prepared for Christmas.  Here’s the story…


Shortly after this past Thanksgiving I took on the painstaking task, but actually lots of fun, of putting up my artificial Christmas tree.  After taking out all the ornaments from the attic and having a living room full of boxes, I setup the tree and quickly adjusted all the branches to form the perfect shape. Now just to plug it in and see the sparkling lights, but then…

Only two strands of the built-in lights worked. After about 30 minutes of checking all the electrical connections and about 100 individual lights I gave up and called the retailer where I purchased the tree from last year.

Fortunoff was my store of choice last year to purchase the tree and I hoped they could help me.  A quick call to the local store was answered by “Les” who genuinely seemed to want to help me.  There was no overt concern to make sure I had my original receipt from one year ago.

No “20 questions” about what was wrong with the tree.  Just a quick check into his computer brought up my account and he saw that the tree came with a 2 year warranty.

Les said that the tree will be replaced free but the local store will not be able to give me the new one, I must contact the manufacturer.  Not what I had hoped but understandable in this case.  Les gave me the telephone number of the manufacturer to call that would handle the warranty directly and even emailed me a copy of my original invoice so I would have the item’s model number and complete proof of purchase.

As soon as I hung up from Les I contacted the manufacturer’s customer service rep who only asked me two questions: What is wrong with the tree and can I return the tree directly to their warehouse and pick up a new one.

Wow, that was easy!

Note: it did help that I was only approximately 30 minutes away from the warehouse.

Question: How easy do you make it for your customers to return an item and keep them coming back for more? Click To Tweet

Leave your comment below and add to the discussion, thanks.

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*I Don’t Care If It’s Against Company Policy

*Would Do This For Your Customer?

*How To Use The Starfish Story To Grow Your Business

*3 Surefire Ways To Be a Better Customer

Copyright © 2017 Steve DiGioia

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10 thoughts on “Here’s How to Keep Customers Coming Back for More

  1. Regarding retail returns…
    I work retail.
    Most of the questions we ask are to determine
    1-How to help the customer , replace? refund/ get a new part? is this actually the product the customer needs?
    2-is this a fraudulent return. (items are stolen-then returned to a different location or at a later time) (customers purchase an item, also pick up and walk out with a second . returning the second)
    3-to locate a receipt we need additional information. beyond the item and your name. Do you know when you purchased and how you paid? Some customers are very reluctant to provide a phone number.. which is often used to track customer purchasing habits, BUT also may provide a trail to locate a receipt .
    4- most retail return policies are simple enough… and easy to process when the customer does their share… keep your receipts, read the directions, also for the few who think getting “huffy” helps… it does not .. on either side of the process..

    • Hi Ruth,

      The process of returning an item is never pleasant, it always seems like a bother to the customer, regardless of what the reason is for the return.

      Even though the store/business needs or desires certain desirable info in order to process the return, the customer will never get it. In their mind they are “in the right” and don’t want to wade through a series of steps to get their money back. Herein lies the challenge.

      As long as both sides of the transaction understand the needs of the other person the experience should be fine…as long as they don’t get “huffy”!

      Thanks Ruth and welcome to our team!

  2. While this article is focused on an “easy return policy” in the retail environment, it really applies to any industry and type of business. The question is, will you stand behind what you sell? If the customer isn’t happy, how will you take care of the problem? An easy return policy can be a metaphor for simply saying, “Let us know if you are unhappy for any reason, we’ll take care of you.”

    • You are so right Shep. A retail business needs to stand behind the products they sell and not just refer an unsatisfied customer back to the manufacturer. Yes, the retail business didn’t make the product but they are the reason why a customer prefers to purchase it from them instead of another business.

      “If you are unhappy for any reason, we’ll take care of you”. So true and a fantastic way to do business.

      Thanks so much Shep for your comment and visiting my blog.

  3. It’s a pain to get products returned for defective/malfunctioning. First response is.. it’s purchased in a deal/reduced price and returns are not accepted. And later many reasons follow to NOT get it shipped back. Recently Purchased a tablet from Reliance Retail- stores and within few months screen went blank. Took it to store, and asked for return/repair. As expected the answer was it’s customer fault and return is not accepted. Voices and tone has to be raised, then supervisor walks to us.. and tries to convince it’s customer fault. But we were sure its manufacturers defect, and not something we created. After repeated attempts, supervisor accepted it to get it shown to their repair desk staff. After few days got the call collect it. It’s working well again. When asked.. no explanation of what happened to the unit.
    Why as a customer, we have to suffer manufacturing defects. Glad your store was easy to process. #Wake up Retail Giants.

    • Harish,

      Sorry to hear about your escapades with the damaged tablet. If a manufacturer will no sand by their product, many times the retailer is put in a no-win position since they can’t return the product themselves. They believe they have no other option but to lose money if they do.

      They fail to realize the customer has no other option but to take their business elsewhere next time. A hardship for the customer now = a lost customer for the future.

      Thanks.

  4. Hey Steve, great story. I had a similar experience returning a tree to Costco and it was after like 3 years. Lights went out and they took it back with no questions asked. I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a tree with built-in lights again but I will definitely continue to shop at Costco.

  5. I wish our return policy were that simple! On paper (and it is on every customer’s receipt) it is simple enough, but if a customer has no receipt, it is very difficult to do. Generally, these returns without receipt have to be handled by our Main Campus store, since here at this smallest campus location, we cannot look up a customer and find a receipt number for proof of purchase and then initiate the return. Only certain supervisors and managers ( myself not being one of them!) can do the lookup (security, you know!). Therefore, a customer musr do the trek to our main campus – and then wait for someone able to do the lookup and then make the return if all checks out.
    Speaking of checks….a check has to have clear the customer’s bank before a return can be done. Credit card purchase….just have your receipt and it can be done.
    Of course, we might not have an item to sell to a customer at our location, after they have done a return. That book or item is only at Main Campus or at the third campus- since we are so small we cannot stock everything. I mean, we are talking the size of a small bedroom here!
    Kermit the Frog might not have it easy being green, but it’s not easy to do a return through us, either!

    • Hi Lisa,

      Seems like your return policy will at some time, if it hasn’t already, turn customers away. Making a customer go to another store or waiting for the check to clear before issuing a refund are turn-offs to anyone. Even Kermit!

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