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The Intelligent Customer Engagement Blog

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy National Returns Day (it’s coming up on Thursday, Jan. 5—hope you’re ready).

According to a recent article from Forbes written by customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken, this Thursday is expected to be the biggest day for consumers to return unwanted holiday gifts. UPS says it expects to ship 1.3 million return packages, to illustrate the magnitude of the “event.”

It’s no surprise that there are a lot of returns following the annual flurry of holiday gift-giving we’ve just completed. But Hyken describes how savvy brick-and-mortar retailers can turn a day of potential financial loss into one of gain.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 48 percent of U.S. consumers will make returns at physical stores this week. Hyken sees this as an opportunity for retailers to roll out the customer service red carpet and turn those returns into upsell opportunities.

His two “simple but important lessons” for retailers are: “see the opportunity” and “make It easy.”

“First, recognize that returns are actually disguised opportunities to showcase your customer service,” Hyken wrote. “A friendly experience is almost always something customers hope for and truly appreciate when they receive it. Engaging employees who genuinely want to help a customer, regardless of making a sale or refunding money on a return, will create a strong positive impression.”

He goes on encourage retailers to take a lesson from industry legends. “Make it easy for the customer to make the return. Online retailer Zappos.com is famous for WOW levels of customer service, and one of the many reasons is because of its easy return policy,” Hyken said. “Nordstrom is another retail giant known for its amazing service and easy return policy. What both of these companies are not known for are low prices. But, somehow they compete and thrive in the retail world. Why? You know the answer. While there are other ways these iconic brands make doing business with them easy, their no-hassle return policies create confidence, which turns into sales and long-term loyal customers.”

Retailers already committed to providing exceptional customer experiences have another opportunity to get a leg up on the competition on National Returns Day.