Returns. They're gonna happen.
You ordered one thing, but received another. Or maybe there was a defect in the product. Maybe what you thought you wanted wasn't really what you wanted. Whatever the reason, you need to return part or all of your shipment. What's your next step?
This is where the Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) comes in. The RMA is part of the process of product return for refund, replacement or repair during the product's warranty period. The seller (in our case the manufacturer) uses this process to verify returns in advance so that the correct action is taken to remedy the situation. Because it's a process, there are steps to be taken:
Your CSR will either direct you to a place to download an RMA form or send one to you. The form asks for basic information — the purchase order (PO) number, item number and quantities. Provide as much detail as possible.
Once the RMA is filled out and sent back to the CSR, the information is put into the system and the pertinent divisions, engineering and quality control, are notified.
At this point the items need to be inspected against the drawings to determine whether they are actually defective. This step can go a couple different ways. Typically, parts are shipped to the manufacturer so they can be inspected and compared to engineering drawings. Other times, photos are sent to the CSR or quality control department to verify the defective part. Sometimes, though, parts are obviously damaged or defective. In this scenario, the quality department can request that the material be scrapped in the field; a credit is issued without physical return of the goods.
Here's a handy chart that helps visualize the process:
(Click on image to view larger.)
The way we see it, a well-though-out RMA process provides 3 basic benefits:
While they are a fact of business life, returns don't have to take up your life. And they won't when you incorporate a good RMA plan.