Return Management Software
For many businesses, returns are a natural, frequently occurring part of the day, and most customers treat them as such. Buyers expect a smooth return and exchange process from both eCommerce and brick-and-mortar retailers — but for some companies, creating this experience is easier said than done, especially if they struggle to organize products behind the scenes.
Creating a positive return/exchange experience starts with return management software. This robust piece of technology can help you improve your overall inventory management and better control the product that gets added back into your system. Multiple dispositions, locations and operational programs can complicate the task, but with the right return management solution, you can effectively deal with any of them. You can even improve several aspects of your business, like efficiency, product visibility and customer satisfaction, with the right product returns management software.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what return management software is, what it does and how it can benefit your business.
What Is Return Management Software?
Return management software, also known as return merchandise authorization (RMA) software, refers to a program that assists companies with inventory adjustments and other aspects of the product return process, including disposal, recycling and refurbishing. It helps streamline the product flow and enhance visibility for a more efficient business.
RMA software usually ties into comprehensive inventory management software, working off of overlapping data points. The system as a whole may also offer features like inventory tracking, order management, barcode solutions, serial number tracking and other business-specific capabilities. Our solution is Finale Inventory, and you can try it out for free.
As for the RMA software, it typically offers aspects that help you control the flow of added inventory and any new conditions it may carry as a result of being returned, including damage or open-item statuses. Some of the features that RMA software provides are:
- Adjust inventory immediately: If a product is returned in an unopened condition and you’ll be putting it back into inventory, you can update your quantity on hand as soon as you receive the return. This up-to-date reflection of stock allows you to have an accurate image of your inventory with no downtime. You can make business decisions with the confidence that you’re using the most current data and have a comprehensive view of the product across locations. You’ll also be able to change your inventory to view counts that adjust for returned items in conditions that are not as straightforward to resell, such as those that are damaged or missing packaging. You can exclude those items from the number of products available to sell and begin to start the process of refurbishing, repackaging or recycling.
- Generate separate product IDs: Often, when products get returned, they are given a new status. Someone may return an item without packaging, with damage or some other altered condition that changes how it is handled when it re-enters your warehouse. In these instances, you don’t want them in your inventory as new items that you can sell to customers. Instead, return management software allows you to link these conditions to unique product IDs. For example, if your original product ID is 3LD1001T, a product ID for the returned, opened item could be 3LD1001T-R. You can easily see that the item is not new and is altered in some way, but it still reflects the code for the original product.
- Handle multiple locations: You may receive returns that affect inventory in more than one place. You can maintain separate inventories or merge them together as needed. For large operations with many warehouses and shipping centers, the ability to handle several locations is a must-have. Plus, if items need to be sent off to another site, you can track that too.
- Count cases or individual products: Many items will be bought and sold in cases. Use case functionality to work with these larger quantities of products in packaged formats.
- Integrate with third-party platforms: If you use any third-party platforms like Shopify or Square, an RMA that syncs up to them can save you countless hours of processing. You can even create custom application programming interfaces (APIs) to work with your own system.
Regardless of the products being sold, RMA software can help you manage them and improve many aspects of your inventory.
Returns Management in Finale Inventory
Here is one of our tour videos to show you just how easy it is to take care of returns in Finale Inventory.
Hi, this is Will Harvey of Finale Inventory. I’m going to give a quick demonstration of product returns. Coming to the homepage here, if you ship a sale out and then something comes back to you, you can memorialize that return and record it back into your inventory with the sales returns command here at the bottom of the sales column.
Let’s pretend I’ve already created a sale — in fact, I have. I’m going to click the sale return function, create a new return. Sometimes sale returns are associated with a specific sale, other times just with a customer, and this particular sale return is from the customer “Foster City.”
I’m just going to go through the list of items. Actually, first I’m going to filter it down to “pies” and say that we’re just accepting back into our inventory, into our stock, some pies that were shipped out and have been returned to us. So we’ll accept two blueberry pies, one apple and one boysenberry pie. Having saved the sale return here, I can now receive the return, which is just like receiving a purchase order, click receive, enter in the data which I’ve received the return, and it’s been received. Those two items, those two blueberry pie items, have just been added back to our quantity on hand of the blueberry pie items. Here they are. That’s all there is to it.
Benefits of Using Return Management Software
Quality return management software offers benefits to inventory visibility, customer satisfaction, efficiency, record-keeping and more. Below are some of the advantages of implementing return management software:
1. Increase Customer Confidence and Retention
One of the most helpful aspects of improving your returns process lies in the benefits that get passed onto your customers. With a robust inventory management program, you can implement a clear and straightforward returns policy that customers understand, generating loyalty and trust among your buyers.
For eCommerce businesses, your return/exchange policy is one of the most important aspects of customer service to nearly half of your audience. They want to know that if a product doesn’t work out, they still have options. It can be the deciding factor for someone to make a significant purchase with your business. If your return policy is not listed or followed, customers lose confidence in you. On the other hand, when you manage your returns effectively, you can take pride in your policy and advertise it to purchasers, knowing that returns will incorporate smoothly into the flow of products behind the scenes.
RMA software helps you create a better experience for your customers in all settings.
- In-store: People expect returns to be fast and easy. If you do in-store returns, the process doesn’t have to be clunky or time-consuming. By creating an efficient returns system, you can streamline the experience and quickly get the customer on their way with their refund. Employees don’t have to spend time adjusting inventory or waiting on the right program to fire up.
- Online: For eCommerce returns, this process needs to be equally simple for the customer. Sending in their product should be straightforward and hassle-free. In today’s heavily digital world, people expect simple returns with the information they need upfront. When you create this kind of experience, customer satisfaction improves, and organizing your returns management system helps you get there.
Better experiences lead to happier customers — and in our modern, fast-paced shopping environment, you need to prove to customers that your company can provide a stellar experience. If you don’t, they may find it with your competitor down the road.
However, if you convince them, you can boost loyalty and ensure they come back next time. About 82% of consumers feel that returns are a normal part of online shopping. By failing to meet these expectations, you could be losing customers. With an RMA to make things easier, you become more competitive and significantly improve your chances of customer satisfaction and retention.
2. Boost Efficiency by Eliminating Extra Steps and Problems
Efficiency is key when it comes to inventory management — and returns are no exception. One of the primary advantages of working with RMA software is that you get a centralized system for tracking products. All of your data is managed in one place, so you don’t have to spend time gathering numbers from different sources. One look, and you know exactly how many items are sitting in inventory.
Plus, with a cloud-based platform, you can access it from a wide variety of devices, including mobile workstations, tablets and phones — being away from your computer won’t slow you down.
Returns management software improves visibility through:
- Current inventory levels
- Counts across locations
- Multiple product status and ID options
- Mobile access
When you have your data at your fingertips, you can make business decisions immediately and trust that the information is accurate. Many companies like to leave a small amount of product available as a buffer, so they don’t sell more than they have, but that can lead to customer disappointment and lost revenue from not offering items that are actually available.
On the other hand, some businesses are prone to overselling, which also leads to customer disappointment and takes time out of your employees’ schedule for order resolution to try and save the sale. In the middle of these approaches lies a sweet spot of inventory management that uses accuracy and up-to-date information to allow for the most beneficial sales methods. You can sell just the right amount of product to maximize profits and minimize problems.
In the above examples, navigating employee allocation, item movement and inventory utilization is key to efficient management. To obtain these factors, you need extended visibility. By carefully tracking your inventory, you can see what items are where, what condition they are in and if they need any special care.
Some organizations have more complex inventory needs than others and may involve repairs or salvage vendors. When third parties enter the picture, the process becomes more fragmented. It can become harder to keep track of items and their conditions. In these instances, you’ll want all the visibility you can get — and RMA software can help. To see how Finale Inventory can improve your inventory’s visibility, start your free trial today.
3. Reduce Costs of Processing Product Returns
We’ve talked about how an RMA program can help you with efficiency, but how does that translate into savings? As you improve productivity, you can save on costs through:
- Reducing labor spent on the processing time.
- Minimizing erosion from product loss.
- Eliminating customer satisfaction issues from the returns process.
Most of these savings involve reducing the use of resources needed. If you can use fewer resources in the overall operation, you can reap a higher profit margin. From employee time to unnecessary transportation and open-item erosion, a smooth inventory management system will save you money in a variety of ways.
With its heightened visibility, you can more clearly find problem areas like bottlenecks or places for improvement. You can also reduce turnaround times in sending returned products for recycling or refurbishing with accurate and up-to-date information. If you can reduce the turnaround time, you improve product flow and reduce the number of items sitting in your warehouse.
Improvements to inventory can also save you the revenue loss from disgruntled customers. An unhappy customer can stop buying from you, post harmful negative reviews online and tell all their friends about a bad experience — all actions that are especially damaging to a small or medium-sized business. Poor customer service costs businesses more and more every year.
One 2018 report shows that U.S. companies lost $75 billion a year due to bad customer experiences. If you can use inventory management to reduce customer upsets and improve their experiences, you can minimize losses from poor interactions.
Improving turnaround is another way that an RMA helps. As soon as a return is processed, you can plan out the disposition. Whether you’re putting it back in inventory to sell, sending it off to the manufacturer or disposing of it, you can set that plan into motion immediately. Faster exchange turnarounds can also help improve customer satisfaction and eliminate excessive processing time.
4. Minimize Administrative Tasks
Return management software reduces the amount of time spent processing returns, a factor that can significantly boost your efficiency. RMA software can help speed up or eliminate administrative tasks and paperwork through features like:
- Stock auditing: Finale Inventory generates stock logs to increase visibility for owners and managers. It allows them to see exactly who did what and when, which helps with keeping track of employee accountability and business activities. These log notes can help management track the location of a product and better solve problems.
- Advanced searches and filters: A simple but powerful tool, advanced searches allow you to quickly and easily find the data you’re looking for. Don’t waste time searching through pages and pages of data when you could go right to the relevant information.
- Integrated software: Our return management solution integrates with several types of programs to help streamline the buying process. We offer integrations with eCommerce platforms like Amazon, Shopify and eBay, plus accounting software like QuickBooks, and purchase platforms like Square and Shopify POS. These integrations allow you to say goodbye to tedious data entry, duplicate information and updating inventory levels from in-store purchases. Transfer data into your accounting files or pull inventory updates from your favorite eCommerce platform. You can link up sales from multiple platforms, too, selling online and in-store with ease.
Another significant part of a cloud-based RMA that helps with speedy administration is its connected functionality. When you use a cloud-based program, you get several benefits that help from an administrator’s point-of-view, including:
- Dramatically reduce duplicate files: Working from the cloud connects you to the same data as everyone else in your company. You don’t need to keep separate files with your data on different computers. Duplicate files open you up to the risk of inaccurate or differing information, so sharing a centralized data platform can help minimize that issue.
- Receive up-to-date information: Since everyone shares the same data, you’ll see any changes made immediately. You can trust that these are accurate without waiting for changes to update. This data allows you to make critical business decisions as soon as they come up.
- Improve data security: Cloud programs use redundant backups, meaning they store data on multiple servers and can usually recover it in the case of an incident.
- Eliminate software upkeep: By using a cloud platform, you don’t have to worry about arranging complex updates. We’ll handle all updates to the program, saving you time and stress.
The more of your returns process you can automate, the less time employees need to spend handling returns and taking stock counts. They can focus on the important stuff, with fewer discrepancies and a minimal need to spend their shift crunching numbers or processing paperwork.
5. Protect Your Business
Another reason that many businesses invest in RMA software is to protect themselves. Some products carry specific disposal or care requirements, such as electronics and hazardous waste, though federal requirements can vary from state to state. For instance, electronics with a cathode ray tube (CRT) carry a high concentration of lead, and unsafe disposal practices for e-waste can expose workers to lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which are all highly dangerous substances. Of course, hazardous materials carry their own share of toxic chemicals. To ensure safe handling and compliance, you must dispose of these items appropriately.
Returns management software creates a detailed record of all of your return processing. It will log each move and show any government entities that you are taking the appropriate precautions when it comes to disposal or recycling. If necessary, you can show them exactly how your product was handled and by whom.
You can also use the extensive records to keep an eye out for theft or mishandling of products. Unfortunately, not all employees are trustworthy. With the accountability of a detailed log, you can watch out for those that aren’t and identify suspicious activity.
Improve Your Returns Management Process With Finale Inventory
Almost every business will find powerful, efficient tools in an RMA program. Businesses that deal with everything from fashion to electronics to food to cleaning supplies can improve their product movement and overall process with the features this software provides. Whether you want to view your returns adjustments in real-time, find integration with third-party software or perform another efficiency-boosting task, a program like Finale Inventory can help.
Finale Inventory offers robust features and customization options for every business. It is scalable and adaptable, adjusting to the needs of your company. Plus, when you work with Finale Inventory, you get a personalized approach to inventory management with a single point of contact and a collaborative experience.
To learn hands-on how Finale Inventory can take your product management to the next level, start your free trial today.