When it comes to handling returned product, companies do not measure their returns process with the same rigor they use for outbound distribution. In fact, nearly 40% of companies do not track reverse logistics metrics at all, according to the Supply Chain Consortium's recent survey of top retail and manufacturing-related companies. 

With the economy appearing to be on the upswing, Bruce Tompkins, Executive Director of the Supply Chain Consortium and author of the Distribution Center Operations Report, believes that now is the time to prepare for increased sales volumes, market and channel expansion, and subsequently, increased returns.

"So little attention has been paid to returns for so long that this area is like a huge bucket of missed opportunities just waiting to be tapped,•bCrLf says Tompkins. "Creating a sound customer service process for returns is essential to keeping today's customers satisfied and loyal. Not only do companies need to worry about customer satisfaction at the front end of the sales process, they also need to take care of the customer at the back end with a solid returns process.•bCrLf

The new report lists the six top reasons for returning product, which represent nearly 75% of all reasons for returns. Interestingly, only the sixth reason is clearly an error made by the company. They are:

1.Customer ordered incorrect product or size
2.Customer decided product not needed or wanted
3.Customer returned with no reason given
4.Product did not fit description on website or in catalog
5.Product did not fit customer's expectations
6.Company shipped incorrect product or size

Tompkins adds, "In the end, from the customer's viewpoint, it really doesn't matter who caused the product return. The customer wants to return the product with as few difficulties as possible, and the company wants to retain their customer and keep costs down. Returns are inevitable, so why not use metrics to monitor and improve reverse logistics activities? Developing and implementing a solid returns process can save organizations a lot of headaches, reduce costs and maintain a satisfied customer base.•bCrLf

For initiatives used to improve returns programs, the Consortium has several interesting findings, which include discontinuing products with high return rates, improving packaging, expanding product descriptions on web sites, and tighter constraints on accepting returns. 

About the Supply Chain Consortium
The Supply Chain Consortium is the premier source for supply chain benchmarking and best practices knowledge. With 280 participating retail, manufacturing and wholesale/distribution companies, the Consortium sponsors a comprehensive repository of 17,000-plus benchmarks complemented by search capabilities, online analysis tools, topic forums and peer networking for supply chain executives and practitioners. The Consortium is led by the needs of its membership and an Advisory Board that includes executives from Campbell Soup Company, Hallmark Cards, Hewlett Packard, Ingram Micro, Kraft Foods, Miller-Coors, The Coca-Cola Company, Target, and True Value Hardware. To learn more about how your company can become a member of the Supply Chain Consortium, contact John Foley, 919-855-5461 or visit www.supplychainconsortium.com. This release also available online at: http://www.tompkinsinc.com/news/PR_2009/pr_061009.asp