Playing ‘Flip It’ with returns and exchanges

Dec 29, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

One of the keys to being successful in the last week of December is your staff’s ability to "flip" customers who come in for a refund or exchange into making a purchase. It won’t happen with every customer, but it rarely happens at all if you don’t try.

That’s why I recommend you make a game out of it by playing Flip It. Flip It not only focuses your team on turning returns/exchanges into sales, but now your staff will actually be happy to see a return/exchange customer and the opportunity to turn them into a sale.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Determine how many days the Flip It contest runs. For examply, run it from Dec. 26 through Dec. 31.
  2. Identify prizes. Prizes need to be large enough to keep your team engaged and interested. I recommend setting the daily prize as a $20 bill or gift card, which is passed around throughout the day as one employee tops another. For a monthly incentive, I suggest both a prize and a funny title for bragging rights, something like $50 and the title of Queen (or King) Flip It. (Prizes can also be set for every Flip It over a certain amount — i.e., a $5 gift card for every return/exchange that has a net increase of $100.)
  3. Score Flip It so it is simple and fun. A customer comes in with a $20 return, but the salesperson sells him $60 of additional items. That means the current top Flip It sale is $40. (You have to net out the return or exchange.) The next customer has a $130 item to exchange, and the salesperson sells her additional items worth $200. The net Flip It sale is $70. That associate now gets to take the cash or gift card from the other salesperson.

The person with the highest net Flip It sale at the end of the first day wins the daily prize, and is also the current Flip It Queen (or King.) Post the current person’s name and amount on a sign in the back room for everyone to see and aim to beat. For the rest of the game, you’ll have a daily winner, and also a current Flip It King or Queen amount to beat.

How effective do you see incentives and games like Flip It for improving add-on sales for returns and exchanges? What are some other ways to motivate staff post-holiday?

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10 Comments on "Playing ‘Flip It’ with returns and exchanges"

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Marge Laney
2 years 11 months ago

Gamification is a great way to motivate everyone, especially Millennials. The drudgery of processing return after return can make everyone surly and turn a good holiday into a flop.

My only advice would be to make sure that associates are coached well and given a couple of tactics for engaging the customer whose mission is “return and go.” Attempting to “flip” customers at the cash wrap while processing their return is not going to work and will result in a firm “no thanks” from customers. And please no “I’m in a contest” pity speeches!

Engaging customers before they reach the cash wrap is the way to go. Either getting them to interact with merchandise on the sales floor or getting them to try-on in the fitting room is the best way to convert a return into a purchase! That’s a win-win-win, for the customer, the associate and the store.

Max Goldberg
2 years 11 months ago

Incentives and games may motivate some employees, but are they really going to benefit consumers? It’s all about the customer and the customer experience, not about an additional $20 for someone who was able to convince a consumer to buy something more. Rather than pitting employees against each other, be transparent about what the post-holiday period means to the company and reward everyone for reaching goals.

Ken Lonyai
2 years 11 months ago

Flip It is a great idea to incentive employees through gamification, but it seems very difficult to track. Maybe in a small shop, but in big stores I don’t see how it would work. Generally returns and subsequent purchases are separate transactions, so it likely would have to be administered on the honor system, where it’s easy to have a breakdown and possibly turn a good thing into animosity between co-workers.

Mohamed Amer
2 years 11 months ago

Flip It is a good example of the power that exists in having a physical store with motivated associates. This does assume that there is a healthy management-employee store culture infused with customer service, teamwork and a competitive spirit.

Without these basic building blocks, the incentives have little chance to capture the imagination or change short-term behavior.

Doug Fleener
2 years 11 months ago

FYI: Flip It was created for stores that have a foundation in delivering engaging and memorable customer experiences. Smart stores can easily balance delivering a great experience and still help customers treat themselves to additional productions. Showing and selling customers products that enhance their lives is the best possible experience.

Shep Hyken
2 years 11 months ago

Gamification at the retail level will have the positive effect of employee engagement. The important thing to keep in mind is that you need the right incentive—something fun, not too serious or heavy. If the contest has too big of a prize, there could be problems that come from competition becoming more important than their normal job responsibility. The other thing to keep in mind is that if the customer finds out that the “flip” or up-sell is part of a competition, that may have negative consequences.

Companies have been using gamification/contests in their customer support centers for years. It gives some incentive for handling customer issues properly, and creates some healthy motivation to be as effective as possible. If done well, the retail front-line should enjoy similar benefits.

Bill Davis
2 years 11 months ago

This can succeed as long as associates don’t press too hard. Few people if any are happy about having to be in a store dealing with a return, so associates need to be mindful that the customer would likely rather be somewhere else.

And as more retailers start to offer a service from Newgistics or one of its competitors, the ability to print a return label from home and schedule a pick up for the item(s) to be returned which alleviates a trip to the store, the opportunity to initiate a game of Flip It is reduced.

Carole Meagher
2 years 11 months ago

I was disappointed in this article. I was hoping to see some actual tips for how an employee could be trained to better engage customers to help them find what they *really* wanted at the store.

Contest, schmontest. A customer who stood in the endless RETURNS line, segregated way off at the back end of the store, isn’t going to be much in the mood to deal with an untrained employee hoping to “flip” a return.

Kai Clarke
2 years 11 months ago

Great idea, incentives and concept. Why not make work more fun? This could also be continued throughout the entire year…special parking places for the winner of a contest (call it the “winner” parking place) and build the theme throughout the year around winners.

J. Kent Smith
2 years 11 months ago

Unclear BUT it’s nice to see retailers take a positive spin on an otherwise neutral to negative event (return). Still amazed by the trouble some retailers put customers through at the returns desk. After all, the lousy product or wrong size or misfit item has achieved what advertising has always tried to: Footsteps into the store. Turning a negative into a positive can be more powerful than a simple positive—make it right. The incentives and games go towards this. Great approaches I hope take root.


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