RMA: What is it and what’s the process?

RMA: What is it and what’s the process?

It is no surprise to anyone that the use of eCommerce continues to grow.


It is estimated that 38% of all retail commerce now takes place online. But what happens when a customer wants or needs to return a product they have bought? Traditionally, the customer would return to the store from which they had bought the item, queue at the returns desk and then have a debate with the assistant as to whether or not the item could be returned. How does the returns process work in the world of eCommerce?


What does RMA Stand for?

RMA stands for Return Merchandise Authorisation, or sometimes, Return Materials Authorisation. It’s the initial step in the process of returning a product to a business, in order to receive a refund, replacement, or initiate a repair. It is the online equivalent of the customer walking up to the returns desk to discuss their issues and what they would like to be done. RMA is used in both B2C and B2B environments. In a channel environment, RMA can be offered as a service. Learn how SCT can serve your RMA needs with access to a secure and dedicated RMA facility.


What is RMA used for?

RMA allows customers to notify a company that problems exist with their orders, or that they simply wish to return an item. It allows a business to monitor and control exchanges and refunds for buyers in a stress free, fast, and efficient manner. An integral part of the process is the ability to clearly set out what a company’s returns policy and process is, prior to a purchase. This helps reduce unnecessary customer satisfaction issues arising from wrong expectations.


What is an RMA Form?

An RMA form is used to capture the necessary data to decide if a return is valid, and to allow it to be processed. The form may be online, found on a website’s returns section, or paper physically shipped with the goods. A well-designed form will signpost the customer through a returns decision tree, helping to set expectations as to the validity of their request. Depending on the type of goods, a form may include a request for information such as:

  • Customer contact information, name, address, e-mail, phone etc
  • Order details, invoice number, date etc
  • Product information, model, and serial number etc
  • Warranty information, as required
  • Reason for return, often a mixture of tick-box options and free form comment
  • Photos of damage goods
  • Request for credit, refund, or repair



The returns form should capture enough information both to process an individual claim, as well as help a business recognise any repeating issues, either in product quality or description, which needs to be addressed.


What is the RMA Process?

Whilst each company will create a bespoke RMA process, there are broadly six steps that need to be included.

Defining a clear policy on returns. This will vary both by business and individual items. Some businesses actively encourage customers to buy multiple sizes of an item, jeans for example, and return the sizes they don’t need. The same business may not allow the return of say underwear. The policy will also set out who pays for the return, plus any limitation on timescale or condition of an item

Enabling the customer to initiate a return. This is where the customer uses an online portal to complete the RMA form. There is usually a clear and concise explanation of the returns policy, to try and avoid unnecessary requests.

Approving or declining the return request. A well-designed RMA form should make this step straightforward and open to automation, however there may be some intervention required to interpret the free-form parts of the RMA form. Customers can have some wild and wonderful reasons for trying to return an item!

The customer returning the item. If a return is approved, the next step is to facilitate the physical shipment of the item back to the business. This may involve creating an address slip for the customer, together with clear packaging instructions. Often, prescribed couriers are used to help a business track and control the return. Where a business has both an online and physical presence, stores can be used as part of the returns process.

The company processing the return. Once the package arrives, the information associated with the RMA enables returns staff to process it efficiently. After the returned item has been checked against the RMA form details, the customer can be credited, a replacement order issued, or other follow-up steps taken as necessary. Notifying the customer of the outcome in a timely manner is important.

Analysing the data from multiple returns, to identify patterns. As well as focusing on individual returns, identifying patterns of return is important, both at a customer and item level. Policies can be adapted as required and product deficiencies rectified more quickly.


Why is RMA Important?

Whilst a good RMA process will help minimise inventory and people costs, the main benefit comes from customer satisfaction. If a customer knows that they can return a defective item, or one that does not suit their needs, they are far more likely to buy it in the first place. Reducing the pain and inconveniences often associated with returning an item, can help casual browsers to become repeat customers.

RMA also helps reduce fraud. It is not unknown for incomplete returns to be made, or lesser value products to be substituted. A good RMA process can not only spot this, but it can also act as a deterrent to potential fraudsters.


How can SCT help the channel with RMA?

In the world of IT, returns may be made for a variety of reasons. Items may be claimed to be defective or need repair. Demo or test equipment may need to be returned. End-of-life products may need to be disposed of as part of the WEEE process. IT can include data-sensitive and classified environments, where security becomes vital.

The cost of setting up an RMA process to an IT business can be very expensive, which is why outsourcing the function can be an attractive proposition. SCT’s secure and dedicated RMA facility is operated by a highly skilled team of engineers. This enables SCT to provide a robust and secure returns, repair, and recycling service for all products, including those originating from data-sensitive environments. By using SCT’s secure facility, you can take advantage of our traditional product replacement end-to-end process, rather than having to resort to the costly exercise of destroying faulty equipment which could otherwise be repaired.

If you would like to find out more about how SCT can help the channel offer secure RMA services, please get in touch.

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