Why Your 3PL Needs a Returns Management System

In our last post, we discussed the reasons your 3PL should add returns management if you’re not already offering that service to your clients. From adding a new revenue stream to improving your client relationships, handling the returns process offers several benefits to your organization.

But processing returns, especially for multiple clients with large product lines, adds complexity to your 3PL operation. Without a good technology platform to streamline returns, they can quickly overwhelm your team. That’s why a strong returns management platform is crucial to your success.

What Does a Returns Management System Do?

This software automates and streamlines many of your return processing steps to save you and your clients both time and money. Using item taxonomy, the RMS leads workers through the returns process, from how to inspect and sort items through disposition – either returning to inventory or donating, repair or disposal. 

Your client defines these steps for each product, and the RMS keeps track of all of them for you – no need for back and forth with your client to decide individual return cases. A good returns platform also includes an image capture system to establish proof of condition for each package and item.

Finally, the RMS provides client-facing dashboards and centralized data so your customers can keep track of their returns and the disposition of each.

Why Can’t I Just Use My WMS?

It’s a natural question – you already have a warehouse management system in place, so why can’t you just use it to manage returns, too?

The problem is, WMS platforms are designed to handle inventory as it flows in from suppliers and out to end customers. Your WMS can’t handle the modern eCommerce return process, which involves a customer initiating a return online and printing a shipping label from the return portal. This software also doesn’t offer tools like consumer-facing return package tracking, which today’s customers expect and demand.

Why Invest In a Returns Management System?

The right RMS offers many benefits to your 3PL, including:

  • Reduced employee time spent on returns processing. As mentioned above, guided workflows have a significant impact on the amount of time your employees spend inspecting, grading and deciding the disposition of each return. 
  • Fewer errors. With software keeping track of return tracking, processing and reporting, your team is less likely to allow mistakes to make their way through the process. This has the added benefit of increasing your client’s trust in your 3PL.
  • Improved visibility. Just knowing how many returns a client has received doesn’t provide a full picture. With comprehensive dashboards, your client can make better sense of their data, including important information like returns by item, returns by retailer (or retail location) and more. This allows them to make intelligent business decisions, such as identifying issues with a specific product or spotting a customer abusing the return policy.
  • Improved customer experience. This may seem like it entirely benefits your client, but improving the end consumer’s experience from ordering all the way through return can also lift your 3PL. A customer who has a pleasant (or at least convenient) return experience is far more likely to buy again from that merchant. Helping your client retain customers even after they return products will strengthen your partnership and improve income for both of you.

In today’s retail and logistics environment, managing fulfillment or returns via spreadsheet or non-purpose-built software just can’t cut it anymore. If you want to efficiently manage returns for your clients, you need a platform that can handle the task – without just creating another headache for your team. 

Want to see everything the right RMS can do for your 3PL? Contact us to book your demo today.

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