The art of reverse logistics

Reverse logistics – also known as the returns process – is just as important to delivering great customer service as the sales and delivery processes. Whether replacing a faulty item or offering a discount to keep when a customer has simply changed their mind, there are plenty of ways to maximise your customer service opportunities in your reverse logistics process.

Treat a return like a sale

You still want to keep your customer, even if they don’t want to keep the product for whatever reason. Whether it’s your branding, reputation or simply product range, they came to you in the first place for a reason, and it’s likely they’ll remain loyal in the future if you deliver a great returns process.

Every touch point during the return must be as pleasant as the original sale. Make it as easy as possible for the customer and they’ll remember you.

Standardise your process

Ask the customer to request a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) when they instigate a return. Using this form enables you to gather quantitative and qualitative data for top level analysis and allows your returns to be accurately tracked but it also means you gain a clear insight into the reason for return and how you can keep your customer.

Personalise where possible

A customer return is still a potential customer – so it’s worth keeping personalised touch points wherever possible. Whether that is automated email workflows with form-generated data gathered by the RMA, or a customer service representative calling the customer in person, it’s up to you based on your resources, capacity, business operation, and other customer service strategies. However, keeping it personal helps the customer feel valued at every point, despite them conducting a return.

Suggest a discount to keep customers

During the RMA process, if the customer chooses the return simply because they changed their mind, allow an automatic pop-up or generate an email that offers a discount for them to keep the product. While this means a small loss for you, they’ll remember you and return their custom in the future. It also significantly reduces your 14-day returns process which slashes your administration costs. You’ll also notice that the reduction in returns makes for a more efficient customer service department and delivers far more favorable figures for management analysis.

Use email for continued custom

Once a customer has returned an item consider following up with an email to them with a future offer. It may be a discount, or free delivery on their next order – whatever is the largest perceived value to the customer. You’ll be able to retain a larger customer base and stay ahead of the competition.

Plan, act, review, change to continually improve your reverse logistics

The classic implementation strategy for any logistics or business process applies just as strongly for your reverse logistics. Once you have implemented a system, test it out. Keep reviewing the data gathered by your customer service team, RMA forms, and any other touch points in the returns process. Consider a feedback survey once a return has been completed to add to the data pool, and use all of the information to regularly review and adapt your process.