This year, returns set an all new single-day high and certain companies are so overwhelmed that they are refunding consumers and telling them to keep the items rather than shipping them back. Returns have become a large pain point for many companies and can add a lot of extra costs when not handled correctly. A thorough understanding for reverse logistics and returns management can allow companies to minimize the added costs and recoup some value while earning increases in customer loyalty.
Returns can happen in any industry for many different reasons. Whether the reason for return is the consumer’s fault (e.g. they ordered the wrong size), a carrier’s fault (e.g. product got damaged during transit) or the distributor’s fault (e.g. shipped an expired product) every company should prepare themselves to handle reverse logistics and returns.
The What: Standardized Process with Automated Workflows
All efficient returns management strategies rely on understanding returns data so that standardized processes can be built, and workflows can be automated. This will prepare an operation to handle all the different returns and minimize the decision making happening in real-time. Defining necessary functionality and selecting appropriate support systems is good practice. A pre-screen with the consumer to allocate the return into the correct workflow allows the logistics team to predict and plan for inbound goods. Workflows can vary company to company, but a quality check is consistent. Assessing goods and distribution into pre-determined workflows leads to quick turnaround time and fastest recouping of investment.
The Why: Financial Incentive AND Customer Loyalty
Financial incentive is clear – the opportunity to resell the goods and recoup value, whether on the primary market in full or a secondary market for fractions. What is less recognized, is the influence on customer management. Customer expectations are high for returns – quick and easy response with free shipping. Managing that relationship can go a long way. Remember that returns contribute to the bigger picture: customer loyalty and repeat sales.
The How: Valuation
With every product, being able to appraise a return is absolutely necessary. Understanding why the return is being made, any repair/refurbishment costs necessary and the future-value of the product reselling (if at all) on the primary or secondary market is key. Having a system in place to do so is extremely important. It has even led to some companies leaving the product with consumer free of charge.
Goods valuation does not paint the entire picture. A considerable piece of the puzzle is customer loyalty and retention. Determining value here is specific to each company, and something not to be ignored.
A trend significant of late is that of sustainability. Government regulations have taken interest in the proper disposal of goods and incentivized reuse and recycling. Secondary markets have flourished in recent years, leading to the development of closed-loop supply chains – those with 0 waste. We predict that 2021 continues to bring a focus to ESG initiatives, and that those not invested there will be left behind.
Alex Krivan, Establish Inc, NY