A Great Article on "Returns"

January is generally a good month for us in the furniture and lighting industry. However, as we also sell a good amount of product during December (more "gifty" type items), we can also expect some returns in January.

Its always a quandry, because nobody likes returns, but then again, how you handle them is a true reflection of your company. I thought this article that appeared in Multi-Channel Merchant by Kevin Brown really captured the essence of how we, as retailers deeply involved in Customer Service, can make this challenge a moment to shine.  I have just recopied a snippet below, but click here to read the whole article.

Kevin Brown is director of marketing for Newgistics, a provider of small parcel shipping and mail processing solutions for the retail, mobile devices, electronics, medical devices and asset recovery industries

The 40 Days of Returns
Jan 20, 2009 6:29 PM, By Kevin Brown

It’s early. The doors roll open and stop, sending a crash calling out to everyone in the distribution center that the day has begun. As the crisp morning air rushes into the shipping and receiving area, packages move at a fevered pace. A quick glance at the calendar shows it is the 21st, just a few more days until peak season is over.

But it’s not Dec. 21st; it’s Jan. 21st and your company is buried in returns and exchanges from 2008’s holiday shopping season.

For many retailers, this is an unfortunate reality. While returns are a natural part of the order lifecycle, it is oftentimes one of the most overlooked areas in the supply chain. Problems commonly occur because many retailers have not seriously evaluated their return policies and processes, or they falsely hold on to the hope that the issues will simply go away by waiting long enough.

The fact remains that a poorly executed returns program is difficult to manage, leading to increased call center costs, labor and real estate planning problems and inventory management issues. All of which creates a customer service nightmare.

Yet, as the peak returns season winds down, you have a unique window of opportunity to learn from and address these issues before the next holiday shopping season.

In today’s difficult economic environment, customers choose carefully where to spend their discretionary dollars. The most successful retailers are not only presenting their merchandise in a manner that will entice customers to buy, but are also focused on delivering a premium customer experience from start to finish. How a merchant chooses to manage that customer after the sale can have long-term effects on its business.

Customers return merchandise because one or more aspects of the order experience did not meet their expectations. A retailer’s failure to manage this critical area of the shopping experience may result in the customer’s decision to not purchase from it again. In short, returns are not just boxes, they are customers.