Categories: Inventory Management
By Mark Tomalonis
Principal, WarehouseTWO, LLC
You know it the instant you see it: a customer return request to which you want to respond with an emphatic “NO!” But who wants to tell his customer “NO”?
Ironically, your more experienced customer service representatives (CSRs) can recognize a potentially costly return request long before that request is made. That is, your savvy CSRs can recognize a future undesirable return request at the time of original order processing.
Before you accept a sales order for an item that you do not want to take back EVER, be proactive: negotiate a “Special Order Item Acknowledgment” agreement with your customer.
What? A printed document that is to be filled in manually, and then signed by the customer??? What are we thinking? No worries. The purpose of this article is to present a business process concept and a sample form. How you implement the ideas expressed in this article, and whether you do so using a printed document or a paperless form is up to you. We chose to present a printable form for instant deployment by those who are comfortable with managing such “classic” technology.
Accepting returns from customers is a necessary part of being a distributor. Most returns are easy to handle: give the customer credit or a refund, and return the item to stock. But not all return requests are that simple. An undesirable item return request meets all of these criteria:
With the exception of an item no longer being in sellable condition, all of the above criteria most likely existed when you took the order for the item. That is, you were aware of the potential for an undesirable return request before you shipped the item. Thus, the time to address/prevent a future undesirable return request is just before you accept the original purchase order from your customer.
Reducing or eliminating the potential for an undesirable return (or cancelation) can be achieved with a one-page form and a few simple steps.
The form: “Special Order Item Acknowledgment”
A form on which to identify items that a customer wants to buy from you that you do not want to take back. A sample form is attached to this article as an addendum.
||Identify items on a pending order that you want to be un-cancelable and/or un-returnable.|
||Communicate to the customer your concern about these items.|
||Offer alternative items or other terms under which you would consider accepting a cancelation or return of these items.|
||Identify the items for which the customer is willing to agree, in writing, to not request a cancelation or return.|
||Complete a “Special Order Item Acknowledgment” form.|
||Meet with an authorized representative of the customer to have him/her sign the completed “Special Order Item Acknowledgment” form.
Negotiating a “Special Order Item Acknowledgment” agreement is an iterative process. Be flexible. It is, after all, a negotiation with your customer. Consider these tips and alternative remedies:
Even if your company is completely “paperless”, the ability to create custom business forms (for internal or external use) can help your business processes run more smoothly. Our favorite applications to create printable or electronic business forms are MS Word, MS Excel and MS Visio.
To create a form that is printable by anyone without the PC application with which the form was created, create a copy of the form as a PDF document. (Most applications allow you to save the document this way.) PDF documents can be printed using Adobe’s free “Acrobat Reader” application. Forms made in Excel or Word can be filled in electronically, and can perform basic calculations and field copying. If you distribute electronic versions of forms, be sure to password-protect them from being edited. (With Excel, you can prevent the document from being edited, but still allow selected fields to be filled in and saved.) Who at your company knows how to create business forms?
Click on these links to download a sample form and instructions:
About the Author
After a successful career in sales and operations management in the wholesale-distribution industry, Mark Tomalonis is now principal of WarehouseTWO, LLC. He amuses himself by writing articles, such as this one, to help wholesaler-distributors execute their operations better. Mark’s articles and tips are published in WarehouseTWO’s monthly e-newsletters. Click here to subscribe.
WarehouseTWO, LLC is an independent “inventory-sharing” service created exclusively for durable goods manufacturers and their authorized distributors, and for any group of durable goods “peer” wholesaler-distributors, such as members of a buying/marketing group or cooperative. To learn how inventory-sharing with WarehouseTWO can help your business, visit the WarehouseTWO website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.