At this week’s eDelivery Conference (EDC15) there was a lot of discussion of the topic of returns, both on the stages of the three session tracks and in the conference chamber itself. Louise Baker, head of supply chain at Sally, the hair and beauty specialist, told the assembled audience that Sally customers get a ‘love it or return it’ guarantee, and that any returns that had been damaged in any way were simply got rid of.
That’s a bold position to take and one that might not work for everyone – although it’s clearly working for Sally.
Reducing your returns burden is one of those things you can look at from several perspectives. You can’t stop accepting returns, but you can take steps to reduce their likelihood. There’s a lot of very smart data analysis you could – and should – be doing in order to identify items most likely to be returned and even customers most likely to submit returns. In the case of the former, you may be able to track down a problem with the manufacturer. With the latter, you might start charging for returns, or marketing to them in a different way.
But there are other steps you need to take to reduce your exposure to unnecessarily high returns rates; especially now that the law has been changed in this area. With that in mind, Jack Smithson, content editor at Davpack, one of the UK’s foremost online suppliers of cardboard boxes, packaging and palletised storage solutions, writes for eDelivery on the role of packaging in reducing damage, and returns, rates.
Essentially, the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives more power to the consumer than ever before. If they find a fault with any product they have bought then they are entitled to a full refund if it is returned within 30 days. That is the crux of it and it’s to stop companies weeding out of refunds or replacements by making their terms and conditions more fair and readable, and through improved consumer protection. So, what can delivery and packaging companies do to ensure they don’t receive an influx of packages deemed unfit by the consumer? The answer lies in secure packaging.
With the consumer now able to return items much more easily, especially if they have bought online, delivery and packaging companies have to make sure they optimise their side of things to avoid any potential returns.
Labelling may seem like a trivial subject to cover, yet clear and correct consignment labelling remains one of the most important aspects of customer satisfaction. For example, a failure to heed to special delivery instructions remains a constant source of annoyance for consumers. The fact is, many of the problems that arise from goods that are bought online can be solved through appropriate labelling.
Having clear labelling that includes information such as ‘fragile contents’ or ‘this way up’ will make it clear to couriers in how to handle the package. To ensure maximum customer satisfaction from the customer’s point of view towards the delivery and packaging company, it’s good practice to install transit monitors, which can be checked at every stage of the delivery and alerts the courier if the package is being handled incorrectly.
The goal for delivery and packaging companies is, quite simply, to avoid shipping and storage damage for the customer. That’s it. Now, of course, mistakes and damages will inevitably happen, However, these should be kept to an absolute minimum, especially with the new Consumer Rights Act and there are plenty of little solutions to help with this — pallet cones are a great example.
By attaching a ‘do not stack’ pallet cone securely on top of your pallets, you will not only reduce the risk of the palletised load becoming damaged, but you will also reduce potential lost sales through damaged goods.
For all the new gadgets and optimisation methods you can implement to ensure maximum customer satisfaction, simple and appropriate packaging is what will generally make the biggest difference – packaging that is fitted to the right size and made from the right material from the off. For example, should the product be electronic; is the packaging anti-static? If the product is fragile; is the packaging foam-lined?
Not only are a diverse range of cardboard boxes and other packaging materials now essential to avoid customer dissatisfaction, postal boxes are also now vital due to the Royal Mails price band for small-large deliveries: the customer will not be happy if they are shipped an item in a large postal box that could have been delivered in a smaller and cheaper one.
Couriers now have to make sure that these little details are now always taken care of, because they will matter more than ever thanks to the new Consumer Rights Act. However, getting these right and making sure your packaging is secure will go along way in gaining customer satisfaction and will greatly reduce the risk of damage — therefore returns will be kept to a minimum.