We've talked about the "Amazon Effect", and the need for agile supply chains to properly handle the increasing expectations customers have regarding factors like costs, availability, and the delivery options of the items they are purchasing. And those increased expectations have also bled into business or B2B transactions as well. After all, business buyers go home at night and grocery shop, go to the mall, and shop online like everyone else.
An important element in this equation is the handling of returns. Perfect returns management presents an opportunity to further delight customers and strengthen relationships with them. According to e-commerce returns stats collected and presented by Invesp, 79% of consumers want free return shipping. As many as 67% of shoppers check the returns page before they purchase online and 92% will buy again if returns are easy.
Getting a clear view of the return flows in your business and what they cost are the first steps to having a successful returns management process. That can certainly be an overwhelming first step. Consider, one returned item can create ten or more transactions in the process depending on the parties involved.
According to a recent survey conducted by ARC Advisory Group and DC Velocity, 42% of retailers were able to say that they fully understood the financial impact of returns on their business, while 27% admitted that they guess or can’t measure it at all. Gaining insight into the process and associated costs is a vital first step.
In the B2B world, a complex returns landscape would likely include SLAs (service level agreements) to consider. Customers need to ship back defective or faulty parts to return centers, where they typically get sent on to larger distribution centers. They need to be inspected and then repaired or rerouted to recycling or back into stock. When a repair is required you need to choose the right repair center or vendor. All the while, your customer service department must be kept apprised of progress, so they in turn, can keep their customer informed.
It's clear that creating a top-quality customer experience starts with embracing that inherent complexity and striving for complete visibility over these flows for your orders.
If you want to give customers a wide choice, high-speed service, low costs, and high reliability, then you need to carefully orchestrate your supply chain. You need to combine that visibility with control on a very granular level for precise, real-time planning and execution of all the steps required for each and every order.
With the end-to-end order visibility and inventory availability a control tower can establish, it’s possible to provide faster and more reliable service to customers, but also to conduct the kind of analysis that empowers you to drive continuous improvement going forward. There’s simply no way of delivering omni-channel and aftermarket capabilities cost effectively without granular insight and real-time control.