Returns Processing Management

Returning goods to an online merchant is often irritating to customers, and it can be a pain point for the retailer as well.

If you’re processing returns in-house, this will require a great deal of coordinating resources. Extra time is required to ensure the process is completed in a way that is efficient for the business and easy for the customer.

As a retailer, it’s imperative to commit to a returns processing strategy that’s seamless and transparent for all involved. However, returns are inevitable, and implementing a thoughtful strategy for this practice is a non-negotiable part of doing business, especially in eCommerce.

The National Retail Federation determined that, on average, 20.8% of online items will be returned.

Given this statistic, partnering with a 3PL to manage the processing of your returns strategy will allow you to spend more time growing your business instead of being consumed with the details behind returns processing.

Returns Processing

What is 3PL returns processing?

3PL returns processing is part of the supply chain process. It is the business of receiving, inspecting, repairing, exchanging, refurbishing and re-stocking. Each step in product returns processing must be managed and monitored.

Businesses handling returns in-house generally reach a point where this task becomes inefficient and requires a new solution.

Partnering with a 3PL provider allows you to outsource this process while still having full transparency.

Your 3PL’s monitoring strategy should include integration with your e-Commerce store so that inventory can sync across fulfillment centers. This is especially important when it comes to returns and restocking. A seasoned 3PL can support your existing RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) solution or can offer in house developed RMA solutions.

Returns processing vs. reverse logistics

You may see the terms returns processing and reverse logistics used interchangeably in descriptions of the returns process. While they’re closely related ideas, there are a few differences.

Reverse logistics

Reverse logistics refers to the practice of moving items back through the supply chain, in reverse, to achieve a fully processed return. A solid reverse logistics system will follow standard operating procedures to expedite the process.

Reverse logistics begins with a customer-initiated return process (this process will look different depending on your business model).

During the processing—the customer will have a chance to identify the reason for return and schedule a time to ship back or hand-deliver to a shipping partner.

Once the return arrives at the warehouse, it’s inspected and classified.

Returned items are flagged for resale, refurbishment, recycling, or disposal if the condition warrants it.

Returns processing and management

Managing returns includes developing strategies to minimize the number of returns, finding better software integrations to speed returns, and other methods to give you visibility into the returns management process of your business.

A 3PL partner, like Kable Product Services, can help mitigate the return process.

This marriage between your company and a 3PL looks like a simple and seamless return transaction for your customer.

In the background, it’s the complete process of a thorough inspection by your logistics provider and accurate placement of goods back into inventory, a refurbishment/recycle stage, or disposal.

Reduce returns costs

Return processing can potentially be a significant challenge for your eCommerce business.

A 3PL returns processing partner can work with you to make sure their return process aligns with your business objectives and your customers’ expectations.

When evaluating a 3PL provider for your business, it’s essential to ensure they have all bases covered, so you can maintain a high standard of customer care.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Example: Does your logistics partner create a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) for every order? Do they support existing online RMA solutions?

An RMA form includes necessary return data, customer information, return date, order number, etc. The warehouse needs this information if an item is returned. This speeds up the return processing.

These components are critical for all parties in creating a seamless and speedy return.

Client with Box

Decide on a clear returns policy

Providing clarity and a seamless return process will allow customers to feel confident about shopping with you now and in the future.

Making this a simple process will engage trust and enhance the overall customer experience.

Consider these things when it comes to developing your return policy:

  • Simplicity—Your returns policy should be simple, with easily accessible instructions that your customers can access before purchasing any of your products.
  • Standard Terms—Under what terms will returns be accepted? How long do customers have from the delivery date to initiate a return? Do customers pay for return shipping? How is it shipped back?

Outlined Procedures—A step-by-step procedure (best practices) will help your business process customer returns in a way that’s efficient, transparent, and cost-effective.

Reviewing Product

Practice gatekeeping

Gatekeeping involves handling return requests from dissatisfied customers and stopping unqualified ones. Gatekeeping should be a top priority item in your best practices for processing returns.

An efficient gatekeeper will fully understand the reverse logistics process. Items being returned are evaluated and accepted based on the standards set by your return policy.

Return Options

It’s essential to think through your target demographic and how you may want to process returns if you were in their position.

Standard return options may include allowing customers to print a return label and place the return in their mailbox for carrier pick up or drop off their return at a brick-and-mortar location or third-party partner.

You may also select a shipping partner to pick up the returns.

Restocking inventory

Once the return has been inspected, if it qualifies as new, it can go back into inventory. If not, the return needs to be evaluated to determine what it will take to meet your business standards.

Can damaged packaging be replaced? Does the item require a new SKU number?

Your 3PL partner can handle these tasks to process and re-stock your inventory.

The Kable Product Services returns management process and best practices

At Kable Product Services, our return process is designed to be as streamlined and efficient as possible. Our goal is to receive the item, refurbish it to its original condition, and return it to your inventory as soon it is processed.

Here are the critical steps to an effective returns management process.

1

Return Initialization and Authorization

We receive the return package into the order processing center in this step. Our returns area is organized to effectively sort out returned items and process them for inspection.

2

Inspection

Each returned order is isolated and inspected by our team. The return is examined for conditions such as damage to the package, missing tags, appropriate labeling, etc., before being sent for repackaging. If an item is in sellable condition, hasn’t been tampered with, we can place back in available stock.

3

Repackaging

Transporting an item to a customer and back to your 3PL partner’s fulfillment center can result in wear and tear on the packaging.

We know you want the presentation of your brand to be as attractive as the product.

At Kable Product Services, all unused items are perfectly repackaged (tags and labels included) to provide the next recipient with the same elite packaging experience.

4

Re-stocking

Once we have met all your business standards for selling your product, the returned item is restocked. Once restocked, the item is available for purchase once again.

Kable Product Services as your 3PL returns processing partner

Why choose Kable Product Services as your returns management partner? We have years of experience in the logistics of cost-effective returns management.

  • Our centrally-located Midwest facility ensures returns are delivered quickly, minimizing the time your product returns are in transit.
  • We offer value-add returns services like repackaging, re-tagging, refurbishment, and relabeling.
  • Our online reporting portal gives you firsthand insight into returns data on-demand 24/7/365
  • Customer service and a dedicated account manager are always available to handle your questions.

How you handle returns is a crucial factor in your customer satisfaction strategy.

When customers are given the ability to return an item, this helps them decide to move forward in the purchase process.  If you’re searching for a 3PL partner that can effectively handle your returns process, we’re here to help.

Speak with one of our industry experts by calling (513) 860-6764 or fill out our form to receive a customized quote.