A recent article in World Trade Magazine, Reverse Logistics: Money Tree or Money Pit?, had some good suggestions on how to streamline your reverse logistics supply chain to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. Quoting a recent study from the Aberdeen Group that found that best-in-class firms reduce return times by over 75%, increase customer satisfaction by 15%, and reduce repair costs by 10%, the article noted that companies best-in-class in reverse logistics have a few things in common.
- Standardized Return & Repair Process
hodge-podge processes drive up costs
- Ability to Recover Costs from Suppliers
a contract that allows for the recovery of costs is one thing, the ability to recover those costs is something else
- Real-Time Information Retrieval
when a customer calls, it is imperative to be able to provide them with an update on their return status
- Multi-Channel Visibility
returns can be initiated in the store, on the website, or over the phone, and can be shipped from the store, a reseller, or the home
This leads to the following best practices:
Customers expect a seamless experience. The ability to return an item ordered online to a store or an item bought at a store over the phone if the store is far away is critical. This requires the returns system to be integrated across all of the channels.
Centralized Returns Facility
Reverse logistics goes more smoothly through a dedicated facility which is set up to allow for sorting, testing, repackaging, and shipping of goods to repair centres or supplier distribution centres. These facilities can provide a way of visually identifying common problems quickly and efficiently. Consider the example of the weed whacker manufacturer who was able to identity the reason for a 266% increase in returns by noticing that the switches were white instead of blue, which was the colour of the approved switch.
Quick Problem Identification
Considering that 70% of goods returned as defective actually work, it’s imperative to quickly determine which goods are truly defective and need to go to the repair centre and which goods can be repacked for resale. In addition, with many of today’s products being (built-in) battery powered, many times the problem is just a bad battery, and the repair is as simple as swapping out a defective battery for a good one — something that can be done in the returns depot, saving an expensive return to the repair centre.
Since even the best efforts to improve quality won’t eliminate defects entirely, and since customers will continue to return products that aren’t really defective (or that just need a new battery), it’s important to have a streamlined reverse logistics process to ensure customer satisfaction stays high while costs stay low.