Offer a choice of return methods: Once the return or exchange is approved, the RMA system processes the transaction and generates a return label, bar code, QR code or some other method to track the return. The customer is given instructions on how to package the item and where to take it. Depending on your brand and the selected RMA system, they might have one choice or dozens. If your brand has a brick-and-mortar location nearby, this is often the least expensive option and increases traffic in your store. Other RMAs utilize multiple carriers and multiple drop-off locations.
Automate the refund: If, in the end, the customer demands a refund, the best experience is one that gets it to them quickly. An RMA system automates this process for you. Some trigger a refund when the return label is scanned by the carrier, others when the item is received and inspected at the fulfillment center. For the ultimate customer experience, some RMA systems process the refund before the original item is returned.
For brands that are built around creating a fabulous customer experience, a seamless returns process is integral to their online success. Other brands are less concerned with the experience than with reducing costs. The thing is, by creating an efficient, centralized system to manage the process, you’re doing both.
Brands focused on profitability can reduce the costs associated with returns in two ways: by preventing more returns from happening and by automating repetitive tasks and streamlining operations to save labor costs. Experts in returns management recommend the following:
- Improve product descriptions: More photos, detailed descriptions, encouraging size information in customer reviews, and providing useful (not cookie-cutter) size charts can prevent returns from happening in the first place.
- Clearly communicate your return policy. This should be customized to reflect your brand values and clearly communicated upfront. Be sure to identify items that are ineligible for return. The top things customers want to know are who is paying for the return shipping and how long is the return window? Making this information easy to find reduces customer service hours.
- Automate your policy. An RMA system can help enforce your return policy by flagging ineligible products or discouraging the return of items that have been washed or worn. While these items may still be returned, this information may determine who pays for it, how the returned item should be handled and where it is sent. It can also help identify fraud, serial returners and credit risks. Automating this process eliminates a massive amount of work for customer service and reverse logistics teams.
- Improve operations: An RMA system automates repetitive tasks such as return authorizations, customer service emails, tracking, and data collection. On the fulfillment end, having this paper trail significantly reduces time spent in identifying and correctly processing returned items. Properly identified items are custom processed according to brand specifications and custom SOW’s.
Gather valuable data
The returns process offers a unique opportunity to gather insights that may be negative but can help your brand in the long run. RMA systems can be automated to collect information at every step of the process, from helping you identify poorly performing products and issues with your website, to identifying habitual returners and preventing fraud.
The larger your business and the more volume you do, the more important the ability to aggregate and analyze this data becomes. More sophisticated systems help leverage data to identify your most profitable customers and products, recognize trends, evaluate the financial impact of different solutions and increase profitability.
Integration with your fulfillment solution
Using an RMA solves one piece of the reverse logistics problem, but the physical movement of goods falls to your warehouse or third-party fulfillment provider. A tech-savvy 3PL should have the ability to integrate with any RMA solution you choose. Direct integrations with their warehouse management system allows merchants full transparency into the returns process in real time. Adding an RMA solution to your reverse logistics process saves time and reduces errors on the physical end.