How to Convert Returns into Sales

John Krautzel
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In the retail world, returned items are an inevitable part of business. What many retailers fail to realize is the opportunity within each return transaction. Rather than just returning the item and processing a refund, you can use this time to provide better service to the customer and possibly turn that return into a sale while gaining a loyal customer.

The first step in converting a return into a sale is to ask customers how the returned item fell short of expectations. Was it a gift? What need was the item expected to fulfill? Without coming across as nosey, remind customers that your job is to see that their needs are fulfilled, and you want to help satisfy them however you can. Take your time, and ask customers about their preferences and concerns. Listen intently, and provide empathetic responses. In many situations, you'll find that the customers' reason for returning the item is simple and easy for you to provide a solution.

Another way to turn a return into a sale is to suggest an alternate item for customers. Once you've demonstrated your support and empathy for the customers' situation, now is the time to subtly coax a sale. Based on how they've answered your questions, you should be able to suggest a few other items that can satisfy the customers' needs. Perhaps they need a larger size or a different brand or color. By gently suggesting that customers try another item, you encourage the sale without coming across as pushy. In contrast, you appear helpful and concerned with solving the customers' problems. If there are no immediate alternatives available, ask if the customers would like to browse a little before completing the transaction. Just because they are returning an item doesn't mean they no longer want to shop at the store.

If the returned items were gifts for the customers, suggest a gift card or store credit. Again, apologize sincerely that the items were not what the customers wanted and encourage them to give the store another shot if they're open to the idea. Mention any current promotions running to entice customers to explore their options.

Finally, accept those situations in which suggestions won't work. Returning an item to a store is an uncomfortable experience for many people, so having a stress-free return policy is key to keeping customers happy. Accept the item back with a smile, and issue the customers' refunds or store credits based on your store's policy. Thank customers for their business, and tell them to come again soon. The pleasant customer service experience will make a great impression and may result in repeat business.

While it's impossible to prevent returns from happening, how you handle each one is within your control. Each return is an opportunity to provide solutions and top-notch customer service to encourage that customer to return to the store in the future. You can't turn every returned item into a sale, but you can build and maintain customer satisfaction, which goes a long way in maintaining a robust customer base.


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