No manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or retailer wants its sold goods to be returned. Yet, every link in the whole chain has to have a returns policy, thereby necessitating a returns management system. This has to be a well framed company policy, not an arbitrary move or subject to any discretion. All reputed manufacturers try to maintain a certain quality. Distributors and wholesalers try to ensure the products are not damaged in any way and retailers form the last link in the chain wherein they try to deliver the goods in factory made condition. The history of the last twenty years, particularly shaped by the boom of eCommerce, has taught us that returns management can be simplified and improved with better engagement. This is because returns are not always about the product but also about the shopping experience of the customer.
Last mile delivery is one of the biggest challenges that eCommerce faces. Beyond all the benefits and conveniences of eCommerce, shipping every item and delivering it to the doorstep is and will remain a demanding task. Unfortunately, not all retailers or logistics companies are perennially efficient. Even manufacturers, wholesalers or distributors are often negligent of the quintessential customer service. Many shoppers, especially those who buy stuff online almost routinely, have experienced a complete lack of communication from an eCommerce platform, specific retailer or delivery company when things don’t pan out as per the expectations. They resort to returning the goods simply because of disappointment or for their expectations remaining unfulfilled.
Companies will do well if they invest in proactive engagement and this can improve returns management. It is not always about tools or state of the art applications. A simple text message notifying the customer of an expected delay does the job. A simple follow up email after the purchase notifying the customer of lack of stock or any change in the exact date & time when the order will be shipped can be sufficient. Customers simply wish to be in the loop. After all, they have paid the money and trusted the eCommerce site as well as the specific seller, in case the two are different entities.
Product quality, compliance and customer service are imperative requisites. Proactive engagement is quite simple in comparison. All it takes is a bit of sensitivity and a consciously planned approach to reach out to the customer at the right time. This can have a positive ripple effect in returns management for every company.