In my many years at Philips, in sales, then marketing and then being responsible to reduce returns from our retail partners, there were endless arguments over the high rate of “no technical fault found” products coming back to our warehouses. The engineers blamed the returns on the liberal return policies at retail. The retailers blamed the manufacturers for making products that were not easy to use or would not easily connect to other products as advertised (anyone remember WebTV?). And as they say, there-in lies the rub – meeting customer expectations. When I would start surveys of consumers who returned products, we worked with some leading national retailers and with the business school interns at leading universities to ask the why questions. We already knew the point of return register with reason codes would always have the #1 key pressed the most, with no relevance to actual return reasons. By using students to make the calls, and offering gift cards, we heard “did not meet expectations” over 75% of the time with most product categories. A very low percentage of consumers said the product did not work, or that they did not like it. Over and over we heard the products did not do what the package or the advertising said it would do. These results were confirmed by some leading consulting firms who offered to help Philips (and other manufacturers) solve the returns problem and showed similar consumer survey results.
The main conclusion then and now for returns and reverse logistics solutions required the paradigm shift discussed in articles in this edition of RL Magazine, and in the RLA work being done. The paradigm shift to meeting and exceeding customer expectations is happening, and the winning consumer goods companies are those who realize this and work to do so. As well as companies who use customer satisfaction measurements to push changes in products and service support.
At the RLA, we also have a responsibility to meet and exceed expectations of our members. Let us know that we are meeting your needs, as the RLA will be a members-driven and members-focused organization for solutions in the reverse industry. Feel free reach out to any of the RLA management team listed in this edition.