As online shopping continues to grow, so has the importance of managing returns. In our digital world, returns are an inevitable part of e-commerce business and a critical point of customer interaction. Many companies see 20-30% of orders being returned and according to UPS, 62% of customers returned or exchanged an item in 2013. So how can retailers reduce returns while improving customer service?
Customers return items for many reasons. The product may be defective, a wrong size, an unwanted gift, or they may have just changed their mind. Whatever the cause, customers want a simple flexible return process. This can include having a return label packaged with the original shipment or an easy to print label from your website.
Customers also want the choice to either return products to the store or return by mail. The return policy should be easy to find, with simple clear instructions detailing what steps need to be taken and if any timeframes or fees are involved. There should not be any surprises during the returns process. Give customers what they want and it’s been proven that they are more likely to be repeat customers and refer their friends.
Role Of Your Third Party Logistics Provider
Your distribution center can make or break your return logistics. It’s important to choose the correct 3PL and work with them to guarantee your returns process.
The distribution center’s employees and processes are the first defense in reducing returns. Employees can inspect items to check if product is damaged or broken when it arrives to the warehouse, notifying you of any issues. When the item is picked and packed for shipment, the employee can again visually inspect the product to make sure it is in good condition, free of dirt or grime that might cause a customer to return the product and even make customers think less of your brand.
Standardized procedures should also be in place when shipping the original package and when processing a return. Practices such as scanning and auditing can ensure items are picked and packed accurately. When an item is returned to the warehouse, processes should be in place to inspect items and return them to inventory as fast as possible.
Third party logistics providers that are able to provide value added services can greatly improve the reverse logistics process. These 3PLs can repackage goods or make repairs. This saves the retailer from counting products as a loss or having to ship them to another location for refurbishing. The product is put back into inventory more quickly and is available for reorder.
Returns are a crucial part of e-commerce. It is up to the retailer to determine the best returns process for their business model and customers. The right distribution partner will be able to help determine the best practices and deliver results.