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The best practice for Product Returns Management is to create a crystal clear process, document it, put it on your website in an easy to find location, then follow the process perfectly.  

Here is a list of Best Practice for Product Returns Management:

  1. Product Descriptions and Images: One of the top reasons for product returns is due to products not matching their online descriptions or image.  Ensure you have all information possible, don’t shortcut the verbiage to save space. Consumers want the data, so explain more than you think you should.  Be sure your images are true to color and don’t photoshop out minor details. Make them accurate and true.

  2. Correct Product Fulfillment: Another top reason is that the wrong item shipped out.  How do you prevent this? Use a 3PL or fulfillment company that has a proven low error rate by scanning barcodes throughout all processes.  This will ensure you won’t have a disappointed customer. If the wrong item is shipped to your customer, they may decide to keep it, which can then throw off your overall inventory.  Get it right from the start. Barcode everything. All inventory should be required to be barcoded for this very reason.

  3. Use a Customer Portal for Product Returns Management:  If you do not have a centralized place to manage product returns, see the trends, run reports and get an overall dashboard view, then you are flying blind and will lose money.  Product returns need to be processed within 24-hours once received at your store or fulfillment center. The consumer expects this and so should you. Complete visibility into all aspects of the return is also necessary to keep a customer happy.  

  4. Create Specific Deadlines for Returns:  Many large online retailers have a 30-day return policy, and outside that window there are more hoops to jump through.  This is a good number to work with because if a customer needs to return something legitimately, it should be quick in order to make them happy.  Outside of this window, it is perfectly fine to have the option of charging a restocking fee of 10-20%, which usually gets the returns moving quickly.

  5. Paying for Return Shipping:  So who has to pay for the return shipping back to your fulfillment center, then again back out to the consumer with a product exchange?  Be very clear with the expectations on what qualifies for free shipping and what doesn’t. Unless you have high-priced products, offering free shipping on returns is a great way to lose all margin in the entire transaction. 

  6. Crediting the Consumer:  If the customer returns a product and simply wants a refund, then you should be taking care of that within 48-hours once the product is received back at your fulfillment center.  This short turn-around in refunding gives the customer the confidence that you are not swindling them and a much better chance of them being a return customer.

  7. Receiving the Product Return: Once a product is returned to your fulfillment center, the turn-around time on processing the return should be 48-hours or less.  Your fulfillment center needs to recondition, reassemble, re-bag, re-tag, etc. the product and get it ready to pick and pack quickly.  This is the area where brands lose money...slow product turn-around.  Hold your fulfillment center to a higher standard and they will help you retain margin on your returns and reships.