Are you a Frequent Returner?

Businesses are touting personalization, customer intimacy and improved customer experiences. Yet customer service today is still that elusive vapor, that thing we know exists but we can never actually grasp. Unfortunately, for many businesses, a dynamic customer experience is still very much theory minus the practicum.

This past week a customer complaint to a retailer with regards to flagging customers for “frequent returns”  piqued my interest.  Here’s an excerpt of that Facebook post which has since been removed by the retailer:

 Dear Retailer;

                Please help me understand the following situation that I am experiencing with your customer    service. I recently purchased a pair of $18.00 headphones, which I ended up not liking when I got home. So the next day I went back to the same store to return them. The saleswoman was very helpful and completed my return but advised me that I was receiving a warning for returns. After inquiring what this meant, I was told that I had been flagged as a “frequent returner”.  She   provided me with a receipt like printout that said I would not be able to return any items for 90 days. I explained that this must be an error, as I couldn’t even remember the last time I had returned something. I asked her to pull up my history and she said the last time I returned   something was in May of 2013 or 8 months ago!!!! She was confused by the warning but couldn’t provide any more details and pointed me towards the telephone number on the “warning receipt”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning this practice in totality as I worked in retail all throughout undergrad and graduate school so I know these individuals do exist. However, this  customer intimacy that businesses claim to have, mixed with personalization, and a touch of “common sense”  should preempt such a letter. Retailers must have the ability to identify the real customers worthy of that moniker while pinpointing outliers who may have returned more than usual but who are still not deserving of such a flag. With all that retailers claim to know about their customers surely they would know when their returns are legitimate. Furthermore, who determines the timeframe for “frequent”?

The bigger part of the injustice however, is the seeming inability of the customer service representatives to take initiative to rectify the matter or even to empathize. Customer service 101 — something we’re still grappling with even today. Mind you, we are not discussing a mom-and-pop store or local retailer here, but the world’s largest multi-channel specialty retailer. I would expect that the customer service representative would recognize repeat customers, even if they don’t remember their dog’s name. At the least, I’d expect the system to recognize customers  and tell an accurate tale of their shopping history. After that reading is fundamental and discretion  should be a criteria for customer service representatives. By the way, did I mention that this customer has top- security clearance?

I blame business culture, high turnover, and non- empathetic , un-empowered  employee s  for the missteps businesses are still making in an age where customer centricity should be priority number one.  Added to that, the inability of businesses to effectively navigate a seamless omni-channel experience.

Who or what do you blame?  How many returns should customers be allowed and in what timeframe?

Here is the customer’s letter to the retailer in its entirety. To protect the innocent, names have not been disclosed.

Dear “Retailer;”

Please help me understand the following situation that I am experiencing with your customer service. I recently purchased a pair of $18.00 headphones, which I ended up not liking when I got home. So the next day I went back to the same store to return them. The saleswoman was very helpful and completed my return but advised me that I was receiving a warning for returns. After inquiring what this meant, I was told that I had been flagged as a “frequent returner”.  She provided me with a receipt like printout that said I would not be able to return any items for 90 days. I explained that this must be an error, as I couldn’t even remember the last time I had returned something. I asked her to pull up my history and she said the last time I returned something was in May of 2013 or 8 months ago!!!! She was confused by the warning but couldn’t provide any more details and pointed me towards the telephone number on the “warning receipt”.

I then called The Retail Equations Customer Service Office listed on the warning receipt and explained the situation to the employee. She told me that she couldn’t pull up my return history but could have my history mailed to me. She then told me “as the receipt states, our purpose is for customers to call to have their Return Activity Report mailed to them.” When I advised her that the “Retailer”, receipt I held in my hand said that I could call them with any questions, as well as to request the report, her response was “well they must have changed the receipt.” She told me that after receiving my report I could dispute it by calling “Retailer” Headquarters. I told her that I felt like the local store kicked me to her and now she was kicking me back to “Retailer” HQ. She said that all she could do was mail the report. I asked her for a contact number for “Retailer”  Headquarters and I was told “I don’t have that but you might could Google it”. I contacted “Retailer’s” customer service and filed a complaint but I wanted other customers to be aware of this potential issue. This appears to be a case of one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing and neither hand is providing customer service. Where is the incentive to not shop online with a company that may charge you for shipping to return an item but not have to deal with such hassles?

Thanks,

“Frequent Returner”

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2 thoughts on “Are you a Frequent Returner?

  1. Remember, anonymous retailer – it’s about the customer experience. Sure, retailers may need rules and limits to discourage such behaviors, but they’ve got to be transparent about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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