East West Manufacturing Blog

7 Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Best Practices + Free RMA Form

Written by Mary-Kerstin Hassiotis | March 17, 2016

No seller wants to learn that a customer is dissatisfied with their product – whether because of a defect, an incorrectly fulfilled order or simply a change of preference. Handling such returns in a systematic and timely manner will prove extremely beneficial to keeping your business running smoothly and, most importantly, keeping customers satisfied. In this post we'll talk about the significance of a well-oiled return merchandise authorization procedure and seven best practices to adopt. Also be sure to download our free, totally customizable RMA form Excel template!

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What is a Return Merchandise Authorization?

A return merchandise authorization (RMA) is part of the process of a consumer returning a product to receive a refund, replacement or repair during the product's warranty period. On the seller's end, it is a means of verifying returns in advance so the appropriate course of action is taken to remedy the situation. This process includes information gathering, return eligibility verification, the physical return of goods, issuing a credit and subsequent replacement, repair or disposal of the returned product(s).

Why Should We have an RMA Process?

Without an effective procedure in place, you'll end up spending an unnecessary amount of time on returns, which shouldn't be your primary focus. A well-built system will mitigate risks and increase efficiency, in addition to establishing expectations for warranty terms, return policies and follow-up actions. A formal process will also enable the identification and tracking of quality defects across categories, suppliers or lot numbers, allowing for quick resolution to such issues.

Get started now with this FREE download: Customizable RMA Form Excel Template

RMA Process Flow 

After receiving a request, you'll need to follow the steps below to determine the correct course of action to take. Assess the information provided and gather additional information from the customer if necessary. Make sure your request form captures key pieces of data, including date of sale, item number and quantity, order number, reason for return and (in the case of damage or defect) a detailed description of the issue. 

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Return Merchandise Authorization Best Practices

It's not enough to have a process on paper – it must be implemented, carried out efficiently and constantly tweaked for improvement. Below are some best practices to follow throughout the return merchandise authorization procedure:

  • Appoint a customer service representative to process RMAs daily
  • Establish a procedure that allows for collaboration between customer service, quality, engineering, logistics and accounting teams
  • Store returned goods in a designated area until engineering has a chance to review them and issue a diagnosis
  • Engineering team should identify trends in quality issues based on returned goods and determine if materials can be recycled, reused or repaired
  • Assign a reference number to include in all correspondence with the customer
  • Returns exceeding a certain amount should be approved by quality and accounting teams before credit is issued
  • Use an automated system (e.g., scanners synced with WMS and accounting systems) to capture data and process returns 

Aim to make this process as simple as possible for your customers. The less effort they have to put forth, and the fewer hoops they're required to jump through to obtain a credit or replacement product, the happier they'll be – and the more likely it is they'll become repeat customers in the long run.

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