The RMA Conundrum

Returned Materials. Returned Goods. Refunds. Credits. These seem like more of an afterthought in some off the shelf systems. If you want to be able to track details such as the nature of the defect, root cause, or do a statistical analysis on returned material trends, you need something a bit more customized. Even in a retail store, have you noticed how cumbersome it can be to process a return, or even a 'void'? It's never as simple as the initial transaction. Of course there are certain steps required for security reasons, but that's not what this is about.

It was a process that each Customer Service Rep at this company dreaded: The 5-part RMA form. The Rep had to fill out the form, send it to the customer and give a copy to the receiving dept so they knew to expect the shipment. Once the shipment arrived, the QC department became involved, and received their own copy as well.

Once the QC department completed their research, they would report their findings, and give their copy back to Customer Service, who would credit the customer's account.

If the customer called to request a status on the process, a quick answer was near impossible. The customer would have to wait while the Rep contacted QC. If QC hadn't received the part, the next step was to contact receiving to see if they had seen the shipment. Once the item was located, the Rep could then call the customer back and provide the status.

This is where I came to save the day. I built an RMA application that tracked the process from beginning to end. The Customer Service Rep could provide an RMA number instantly so the customer could make the shipment the same day. The receiver could see all shipments he/she was expecting, and mark them as received with one click. The QC person could enter their disposition very easily as well. Lastly, and most importantly, Customer Service could provide a status to the customer without having to place them on hold or call them back.

And did I mention the whole process was now paperless? Of course the RMA form could be printed if needed, i.e. to fax or email to the customer.

While the labor savings in this situation was remarkable, the response time to the customer was the real benefit. So next time you find yourself having to call a client back because you need to "track down the paperwork", think to yourself "it doesn't have to be this way!".