Whether you’re just getting started in eCommerce or you’re a online shop veteran, at some point you’ll have to give some serious thought to building or hiring a returns management team.

The world of eCommerce simply generates too many returns to ignore this vital part of the supply chain. Some niches can expect as much as 30 percent of each order to be sent back, it’s simply too much product to just casually handle in between phone calls and marketing meetings.

Choosing a great reverse logistics team can not only save you money on those returns, in some cases it can even help you develop a secondary income stream with products that would be otherwise unsellable. It’s a great bonus for a service you need anyway. 

Four Important Questions to Ask Your Returns Management Team

Before you settle on a returns management team, you need to ask yourself or your future team a few questions to help establish exactly how the process will work and how you’ll know if your reverse logistics plan is working well.

These four questions on returns management are a great place to start:

  1. How do you grade returns? There are various methods of grading products, some will rely solely on the skill of a human grader, others are largely performed by helpful software.

    Human graders may pick up on more subtle differences in materials, but computer-assisted grading can generate a much more consistent and faster end result. Both have their benefits, depending on your product and how quickly you want it back on the shelf.

  2. What do you do with items that can’t be resold? You will always get some returns that can’t be resold because they’re out of date, damaged beyond reasonable repair or not the item they were supposed to be.

    When this happens, your reverse logistics team has to decide on disposal options. Do you prioritize keeping products out of the landfill by recycling or reselling on secondary markets so you can boast about your green footprint? Now’s the time to ask this important question!

  3. Do you issue customer refunds and if so, how long does that process take? Many reverse logistics teams can also handle your refunds, but you need to get the details before you sign on the dotted line. Just how much time on average does it take from the moment your customer’s order is accepted at the facility to the minute the credit appears on their account? Today’s customers want everything as quickly as possible, including credits, so don’t let them down.
  4. What kind of metrics are available for my returns? Any time you’re dealing with a supply chain process, you should have access to the metrics that are applicable to it. By tracking metrics like number of a specific SKU that’s returned and the reason, you can get a better idea of how to reduce returns in the future. There are plenty of things you can do with the right metrics, but you have to have them available first.

There’s a lot to learn about returns management, but a good reverse logistics team will take the time to answer your questions completely and help you understand anything you don’t. It’s important that you find a returns management team that has goals in mind that are similar to your own, so don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.