• Jim Southern

The Role of WMS in Customer Returns

For many companies the order of the day is to ship orders and get goods out of the door as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, the customer returns process is often neglected and seen as a secondary task which gets done "when it gets done".

This means returns has traditionally been dealt with as an exception within the normal operation of the warehouse. However, as the need to improve customer service intensifies, so managing customer returns has become perhaps as important as shipping the order in the first place.

Also driving the requirement to handle returns more efficiently is the way business is conducted in the modern world. With the emergence of "ECommerce" many customers are being given a "quibble free" returns option. A good example would be an on-line clothes retailer where the customer may order three items to try and return two of them because they don't like them or they don't fit. (I know this as my daughter does it all the time!)

A recent report from the Gartner Group (Technology research) estimates that the average online transaction return rate can be as high as 35 per cent. Of course the customer returns policy is used to promote sales but there must be an effective method to handle the returns which includes recognition, quality control, and returning to stock locations in the warehouse. If the handling of growing volumes of returns is managed poorly, it will consume resource and eat into revenues. The survival of business itself can be compromised and profits reduced.

WMS and Customer Returns

There are several key elements of any WMS systems functionality that need to be present for the customer returns process to work effectively:

1. The returns functionality should allow the user to define a condition code, determining the route the inventory must take as

the items arrive at the warehouse. It should also allow user-definable codes to be changed part way through the process. For example, the standard route may direct: "QC Hold" "Inspection", "Repack", and "Putaway".

2. The WMS system must use barcode scanning of the items on receipt to verify the correct items are about to be processed.

3. The WMS system should be flexible enough to handle different types of return. Many returns are pre-booked against an RMA (return merchandise authorisation) but sometimes as we are all aware, the goods just turn up at the warehouse without a pre-advice with just a tracking label (or not!).

4. The WMS system must keep track of all returns and make them "visible" to the business so they don't become forgotten and neglected.

5. The WMS system returns functionality needs to be "joined up" with the Financial or ERP systems so that credits, replacements are done promptly to maintain customer satisfaction levels.

Dexterity WMS handles returns in many flexible ways to ensure efficient reverse logistics for your business. We've implemented many successful systems across many industry sectors over the years - Give us a call to discuss your warehouse management project.

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