The 7 Painful Plagues of Returns Management for Brands and Retailers

Michael Kruse Sørensen
March 26, 2024
3 minutes

It can be painful to handle returns and warranty claims with customers and suppliers. And for most brands and retailers handling physical products, such as furniture and fashion, returns management is indeed a costly source of pain.

We found that both brands and retailers report the same issues behind their pain. In fact, when analyzing our last 20 interviews with brands and retailers in the furniture and fashion space they mention the same pains.

Here are the 7 plagues that make handling product returns and claims a painful challenge:

1. Manual handling

Many brands and retailers rely on emails and spreadsheets to manually process large parts of their returns and claims. Or use a stitched together solution. Those miss out on improving their returns process and automation potentials. The following parts of the returns process is often handled completely manually, but could mostly be automated:

  • Manual processing of refunds, replacements, gift cards, etc.
  • Manual lookup of requirements for different products or brands
  • Manual data entry e.g. from emails to order systems and ERPs
  • Manual conversations with customers and notifications to partners

Handling all this manually is of course costly. And can lead to a worse experience for the customer who just wants their problem solved.

2. Missing documentation

One common root of evil is when the brand or retailer does not collect the right information from the customer up front. Without it you can't decide on the right course of action. This slows down the process and increases the handling time for each return. But it’s very difficult because different return scenarios require different documentation. Your goal should be to structure the return submission flow such that customers always provide the right information up front. 

3. Unnecessary back and forth with customers

Of course communicating with the customer is sometimes where the magic happens. However, unnecessary communication is also a driver of bad customer experiences and wasted time. For instance, if you ask for further documentation, such as pictures of the fault, the customer might think “why didn’t you just ask me this earlier?” And every extra step slows down the resolution process and takes away valuable time for service agents.

4. Countless stakeholders

Handling returns and claims is relatively more challenging than other types of customer support cases because it involves countless stakeholders. Customers, suppliers, the customer support team, logistics partners, warehouses, repair shops, management, are all part of the process. To make things worse, there are different customer types. Many brands and retailers deal with B2C and B2B customers who shop from different sales channels such as Online, In-Store, Retail, and Wholesale. 

And if you deal with many brands or many retailers, typically each will have their own guidelines, which makes it difficult for your support team to efficiently handle.

5. Complex products

Some products are more complex than others. If you sell furniture or high-end fashion, you have added challenges because often products are more expensive and it makes sense to take them back for repair. Also, if you sell bulky items you have added logistical challenges.


6. Lack of integrations and automation

If you study the processes of your team who handles returns, we bet you will find they spend a lot of time looking up information in one system and processing it in another. 

You will find them shifting tabs between different systems in order to search for the information they need. E.g. between their emails or ticketing system and your order system. And they might even spend significant time updating or moving data across systems. That is painful to watch, especially knowing this could all be done automatically and instantly with simple integrations. 

7. Poor data and reporting

If you rely on manual data processing you will typically find another problem, which is having data collected and well-structured so you can analyze it and use it to improve your business. 

However, if you rely on emails or stitched together systems, there’s a high likelihood that your data will be fragmented. That makes it difficult and time consuming to create even the simplest report. You miss insight into exactly how many returns you get, which products drive them, how much it costs your business and how you can improve. You operate blind.

Reach out if you want help

Those were the 7 common plagues of Returns Management. Depending on the size of your business these issues cost thousands if not millions of dollars every year in lost productivity and customer satisfaction. Scary, eh?

If you recognize those pains give us a shout, we are happy to help you learn what you can do to relieve the pain :)

Talk to us or check out our blog where you can learn more about how to improve your returns process.

Want to learn more?

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