Choosing a reverse logistics partner is a little like choosing an office assistant.

You need them to really be on top of their game, they need to know their industry inside and out and above all, they need to put the good of the business first. A good returns management team is all of this and a little bit more. The faster they work, the happier your customers will be, which is a huge bonus you get for doing absolutely nothing but hiring the right people to help.

So, what services should you look for when hunting for that ideal match?

Go Far Beyond Accepting Returns

When you think about a reverse logistics partner, you probably imagine a warehouse where people take returns from your customers and then… what? That’s where a lot of people stop, since no one gives a lot of thought to what a returns management team really does. Obviously they manage returns, it’s right in the name, but what does that mean?

Here are a few services that a good reverse logistics partner should offer beyond simple returns processing:

  • Label generation. Smart labels make it easy for your customers to return the items they have decided that they either don’t want or are simply not what they expected. These labels are more than just labels, though.

    From the moment they’re scanned by the shipper, a good reverse logistics team has a bead on that return. They know where it is, when it’ll be in the facility and how quickly they can inspect it and get a credit issued. Smart labels make returns faster!

  • Real-time reporting. Every part of the supply chain should be data-rich these days. If you can’t measure it or do some kind of numerical comparison, you’re not trying hard enough.

    From the number of steps it takes to carry a return to the processing area to the number of hours until a customer gets their refund, your reverse logistics team should have lots of data you can use to help improve your business or decrease your number of returns.

  • Inspection. There’s looking at the item being returned and then there’s inspecting it. A good inspection assess the condition, determines whether it’s ready to be immediately resold or if it needs to be repaired or recycled.

    Some reverse logistics teams utilize software that can help speed up the inspection process with predefined metrics to determine an item’s grade, others rely on years of experience. Either way, a practiced eye should be looking carefully for damage, not just glancing and tossing your returns in a bin.

  • Repackaging. Often items make it to the reverse logistics facility without their original packaging intact, which makes them understandably difficult to sell, even if they’re still in perfect condition. When this happens, a high quality reverse logistics company will repackage each product as closely to original as possible before returning it to your warehouse for resale or sending it to another location of your choosing.

Choosing a really good reverse logistics partner isn’t all that difficult, you just have to make sure the one you ultimately sign with is focused on the little things, like tiny scratches and rips, and all those little bits of data. If they keep track of those things, it’s a good chance that the big things are being properly minded, too.