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A refund story

Old Way:

The other night I had to return something to my local grocery store. I walked in with the goods, but without the receipt. The person working the customer service desk (a regular staffer not a dedicated customer service person) asked me for the receipt and, on learning that I did not have it told me I needed it for a refund. I said "oh" and waited and, after a few seconds, she told me that she would go ahead and refund it anyway but next time I should bring the receipt. Then she asked me for my loyalty card and refunded the money. [True Story]

EDM Way:

The other night I had to return something to my local grocery store. I walked in with the goods, but without the receipt. The person working the customer service desk (a regular staffer not a dedicated customer service person) asked me for my loyalty card as this was the standard first-step in the refund process. She then scanned my returns. Using the barcodes on the returned goods and my identification the system:

  • Told her I was a loyal and relatively extensive shopper so she could tailor her conversation with me appropriately and gave her my name so she could interact more personably
  • Told her to refund me the money even though I had no receipt as I was a regular shopper and the records on my loyalty card showed that goods like the ones being returned had been bought recently by someone with my card
  • Named a product I was "due" to buy as being on special and suggested she tell me
  • Displayed a special offer and asked her to see if I wanted it, printing it if I did
  • Noted the return for future reference and for inclusion in risk and marketing models

Why is this a better process?

  1. It could tailor the need for a receipt based on the customer's past behavior and decide whether I should get a cash refund or a store credit
  2. It removed the need for her to make a judgment call on the spot and so risk offending a good customer or paying off a shoplifter ensuring that company policy and risk models were applied
  3. It created an opportunity for loyalty marketing and quality service

All the necessary data is in the system. The models and rules are easy to develop. The technology to deliver the interaction support to her till exists. None of this is hard.

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