Edition 129, February 2024

Enhancing Return Rates through Customer-Centric Approaches in Parts Recovery

By Michael Kerstein, OnProcess Technology

In today’s supply chain industry, parts recovery has evolved beyond a cost-saving mechanism; it has become vital for efficiency and sustainability. Asset recovery, if done right, makes it easy for companies to reclaim essential parts and materials for refurbishment and reuse while driving cost reduction while minimizing environmental impact.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that parts recovery is crucial for building supply chain and resilience, with companies actively looking for a way to increase their return rates.

While trying to streamline their returns processes, most businesses are focused on “the part”, not on the customer’s experience, overlooking that placing the customer in the center can dramatically boost return rates.

Many companies are still taking a low-data, high-action approach to reverse logistics. When you consider the separate teams for returns, warranty recovery, repair, and customer service, it becomes clear that connecting all the necessary processes is no easy feat. This lack of communication has a knock-on effect on customer experience, making returning a part or component unnecessarily difficult and confusing for the end consumer.

Traditionally, when important information needs to be communicated to a client, most businesses think a phone call is the way to go. But let’s be honest, when was the last time you picked up a phone call from an unknown number? In the age of the Internet, customers prefer less intrusive, digital-first experiences. And this is not just a gut feeling, OnProcess’ historical data supports it. 48% of phone calls for one of our asset recovery programs end up in voice mail. Considering that phone calls are also the most expensive means of communication with customers, it makes no sense to still rely on a single channel returns approach.

The antidote to this challenge is understanding and embracing the customer’s preferences. Whether it’s individual consumers or B2B clients, the preference for self-service portals, emails, and SMS as primary communication channels has become the norm, and handling returns is no exception. Pivoting towards an omnichannel contact strategy that seamlessly integrates various communication channels becomes essential, and the initial investment in this shift towards customer-centricity pays off in the long run with increased customer loyalty and optimized return rates.

Migrating from a traditional single channel approach to a comprehensive omnichannel contact strategy does not happen overnight. So, where to begin?

  1. Start with a deep dive into your existing customer data. This step is crucial in building a true understanding of your customers, their needs, and communication preferences. Focus your analysis on when and how customers prefer to be contacted. How many of your phone calls actually result in a successful outreach? How many of those outreaches result in a successful return? Is it more likely for a person to pick up the phone at 11 AM than it is at 6 PM? Optimizing communication methods based on historical performance enhances the chances of a successful return process.
  2. Consider which communication channels beyond traditional phone calls you are going to adopt. Embracing avenues like email, SMS, and user-friendly self-service portals not only aligns with modern preferences but also enhances accessibility and convenience. It is also important to consider the profiles of your customers - there are probably some occasions when the old-fashioned phone calls are still the best way to go – think of people who are not tech-savvy or have no access to the Internet. There are others when an intuitive self-service portal will result in a cheaper and more convenient interaction with your customer. It is important to remain open-minded, flexible, and adaptable to meet your customer’s needs best.
  3. Conduct A/B testing on a small batch of your customers. Experiment with different communication approaches and try out different combinations to refine the customer journey, ensuring clarity, simplicity, and resonance with clients. Reevaluate the data you gather during this step, compare the return rates in your samples, and pick the contact strategy that works best based on your customers and their needs.
  4. Frequently reevaluate your strategy. The journey towards customer-centricity is not a one-time effort but a continuous evolution. Track your return rates, keep an eye on new technological breakthroughs, and adapt to the changing needs of customers to build a truly responsive and agile system.

Efficient asset recovery is essential in today’s supply chain landscape amidst ever so strict environmental government regulations and materials scarcity. It seems that the key to maximizing return rates lies in the symbiotic relationship between customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Adopting a customer-centric approach in which all channels are integrated for a unified, consistent experience and optimized results for both the customer and the business can make a huge difference in your bottom line.

Implementing omnichannel communication strategies within parts recovery isn’t just a smart move; it’s an investment in fostering lasting relationships and maximizing returns in a world where adaptability and customer satisfaction reign supreme.

Michael Kerstein
Michael Kerstein joined OnProcess Technology in May 2022 as a Chief Product Officer. He is responsible for the strategy, definition, and delivery of the OnProcess product portfolio. Mike has years of experience as a product leader with a passion for building products for high-growth technology companies that drive insight and value in data-rich industries. He has led the development, launch, and support of multiple successful Enterprise SaaS products in the Field Service, Mining, and Defense industries. Most recently, Mike led product at XOi Technologies, where he drove the product strategy and the launch of several new AI-driven data products.