A weak returns process can cause chaos. Warehouses get flooded with products waiting to be sorted. Packages sit in limbo whether intact, damaged or expired all together. All the while, customers grow frustrated waiting for their returns to be processed and accounts to be credited.
An inefficient system not only slows operations, it can also cost a company money, by allowing products to depreciate, or perish, in the case of food products. Building a robust reverse logistics flow takes time, but with a few simple steps, any retailer can introduce efficiency into their operations. Here we outline five ways to optimize your returns.
Include a merchandise return label with your shipments.
Make your return experience more convenient by adding a return label to every outgoing package. This can help boost customer satisfaction without breaking the bank, as many return labels do not incur shipping costs until they are used.
Dedicate a space for returns in your warehouse and implement a three-bin system.
Return to supplier. Restock. Discard. By using these three sorting bins for returned merchandise, your warehouse can begin routing the packages in the right direction.
Integrate items from the “Restock” bin back into the stocking process.
Merchandise that can be sold again should enter your forward-moving flow as quickly as possible. Check your bins frequently to ensure that items ready to be restocked are scanned back into the system and made available for purchase.
Keep high-priority and fast-selling items in a buffer zone.
Designate a space for high-priority return items. That way, you won’t spend time moving them to their original storage location, allowing them to be picked for resale more quickly.
Ensure your packaging is sturdy enough to travel back safely.
Poor packaging leads to damage and even loss of merchandise. If you intend for your customers to use the original packaging when returning their purchase, make sure it can handle the wear. Invest in thicker cardboard boxes and tear-proof poly mailers to prevent issues down the line.
Every returns process presents opportunities for improvement. By keeping an eye on your processes’ pain points and introducing new strategies for efficiency, your company can streamline its operations and improve its outbound flow.