Over the summer one of my favorite shopping experiences was at The Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vermont. The Vermont Country Store describes themselves as purveyors of the practical and hard-to-find. I found it to be a fun, hands-on and engaging store with something different at every turn. If you've ever read their catalogue you know what I mean. Where else would you find customers with maple butter, a rubber Mr. Bill doll, beautiful placemats, a corn slitter, penny candy and an old-fashioned flannel nightshirt all in one shopping basket?
But what stood out even more was The Vermont Country Store's 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. If for any reason a customer is dissatisfied, they will exchange the product or refund the money with no hassles or fuss. It doesn't matter how long ago the product was purchased or even the condition of the product itself. If the customer is unhappy, they'll fix it. As they say on their website, this is the way they've been doing business since 1946!
When I talk to retailers about leveraging a more liberal return and exchange policy they often tell me they can't afford to do so. I suspect that if a liberal return policy wasn't profitable The Vermont Country Store wouldn't have done it for the last 62 years.
As specialty retailers, we are in the business of customers. To be successful we need to ensure that our policies, procedures, and most of all our people meet and exceed our customer's expectations. When we do that we are rewarded with a lifetime of business.
When we fall short of those expectations we may still get a transaction or two from that shopper, but they're not our customers. The difference between the two makes a huge difference to the bottom line.
So let me ask, are your policies, procedures, and people customer focused? If not, what changes do you need to make in order to make them so?
And thanks to the Vermont Country Store for a great experience and proving that a liberal return policy is smart business.