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Wake Up: Returns are YOUR fault, NOT the customers

Wake Up: Returns are YOUR fault, NOT the customers

by Bill Stuart, Founder, Stuart & Associates Inc.

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 90

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My friend had a cat he was thinking of getting rid of because it pees all over the house and his place smells terrible! I thought ďwhat a disgusting cat.Ē Then it struck me, ďHey wait a minute, itís not the cats fault it was happening, it was my friends.Ē He never took the initiative to learn how to change the catís behavior.

Returns in your company is a very similar situation. How can you blame YOUR customers for returns when you have not done everything possible to change the behaviors? Iím not only talking about the behaviors of your customers but also the management and associates at all levels in your own company.

LOOK I am not going to go on a long winded explanation of why itís your fault because then I would be pointing the same finger at you, that you are pointing at the customer and I did at the disgusting cat.

While everyone is very focused on the logistics of returns I want you to better understand why itís happening to YOU. Instead take 3 min. and honestly answer these questions without doing research and without asking other people for answers.

What were the companyís sales the last three years (You can estimate)
2017 $________ 2016 $_________ 2015 $_________

What were your companyís return rates the last 3 years? (You can estimate)
2017 _____% 2016 _____% 2015 _____%

What were the dollars of returns for those same three years (You can estimate)
2017 $________ 2016 $_________ 2015 $_________

Did you find it easier to correctly estimate the sales than to estimate the returns? YES__ NO __

Of the people in the positions listed below: Put a check mark next to the ones that you feel would at least 25% of the sales and returns information above, off the top of their head. There are two lists one for Retailers and one for Manufacturers, do only the one that applies to you.

___CEO, ___CFO, ___SVP sales, ___VP online sales, ___Regional VP, ___Dist.Mgr, ___Store Mgr, ___Asst.SM, ___Dept. Mgr., ___Sales assoc., ___Customer service, ___Cashier, ___Repair center, ___Shipping and receiving

___CEO, ___CFO , ___SVP sales, ___Divisional of sales, ___VP of Online Sales, ___Marketing, ___Product development, ___Product Design, Call center , ___Customer service, ___Technical support, ___Repair centers, ___Packaging, ____Logistics

On a scale of 1-10 ( 10 being best and or regularly scheduled) rate the following:

____ Level of communication concerning return rates and dollars between all of the groups

____ You regularly hold a Returns mtg. with all the positions listed above, attending the mtg. together, to address returns opportunities and solutions

____ You hold returns mtgs with the individuals / individual groups listed above as often as you do sales meetings. (A return is nothing more than a sale in reverse; itís a potentially lost customer)

____ YOU have a written strategy for reducing returns that includes each of the positions listed above

____YOU have set returns goals just as you do for sales

____ YOU have shopped your website/stores to assess what could be done differently to reduce returns

____ YOUíVE shopped your competitorís website/stores to seek out what they do better than you

____ YOUíVE used your online chat to assess how it can better reduce returns

There are more questions I could ask but I think you get my point. Returns are not a cost of doing business, they are a cost of doing business incorrectly.
The customer with a return is not a problem customer; they are a customer with a problem! A problem that we, in most cases, have not done all that we could to reduce.

When you raise the level of awareness of returns and change how people think of returns thatís when you will start saving sales and customers not to mention the creation of a more knowledgeable and involved organization.

Oh, by the way, my friend did finally get a litter box and while the smell still exists, itís not as pungent and itís contained. (Get the idea?)

You can never completely eliminate returns but you can contain them and increase your odds of keeping the customer.

In 1995 Bill Stuart founded the first company focused solely on the reduction of Consumer Returns to Retailers and Retailers returns to Manufacturers.
Over the past 23 years Stuart & Associates Inc. has become the Industry Leader in Returns Reduction having dramatically increased its clients profits by developing and implementing proprietary strategies that have REDUCED their clients returns by the $100ís of millions.

A few of our clients, past and present, that benefited significantly from our strategies include: Best Buy, Tractor Supply Company, Sears Holding, P&G, Hoover, Philips Consumer Electronics.

Bill can be contacted at 615-289-0007 but has limited availability left in 2018 for returns analysis and for Keynote Speaking. Visit us at
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