RMA Numbers Help Streamline Returns Process

Merchants accepting returned shipments from consumers can streamline the process by asking their customers to include their return merchandise authorization number on the side of their packages.

Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) numbers can be very important to merchants, says Peter Shopp, senior vice president of operations for Mouser Electronics, and “can make a big difference in whether the new customer becomes a repeat customer.”

Shopp says one thing Mouser does to speed up the return process is it asks customers to write their RMA number on the outside of the returned package. The RMA number – usually obtainable on the package invoice slip or by calling a company 800-number — is a service order number that allows all departments to easily view the return in a company’s database.

“This step keeps everyone informed and ultimately helps satisfy the customer,” Shopp says.

In most businesses, processing a return can be costly to the company, Shopp says, and “you have to weigh the total cost of processing a return. For Mouser, we may throw out a ten-cent chip rather than incur the cost of restocking.”

Steven Edelstein, CEO of brand management/marketing consultancy The Logical Step, says RMA numbers are a functional and fundamental part of the returns process, that not only allow the retailer the ability to reconcile the return, but provide an opportunity to reduce the financial expense as well.

Without an RMA number, questions have to be asked regarding the product that cause further delays and extra handling.

For many merchants, the RMA is used as a safeguard to ensure that the product can be returned in good order, that the product has not been damaged by the end user, that the product is being returned within the allotted return period, and to ensure that the marketer has an opportunity to stop the return while always maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.

“It puts the onus on the consumer should they want to return the product,” Edelstein says.

Most merchants set specific time periods – 30-, 45-, or 90-day – for returns. “Some companies have a lot of latitude, and others don’t,” he adds. “But some companies put a little bit of flexibility into it to avoid public relations nightmares.”

Edelstein says he sees more companies using RMA numbers now because of the economy and because “they want to hold onto the customer. It’s a tracking device that is a unique identifier that ties back to the customer identification and keeps the operations and customer service people happy.”

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.

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