Visable 360
The B2B magazine for digital sales
Visable 360
The B2B magazine for digital sales

Returns management in B2B: goals and measures

Professional handling of returns is extremely important for B2B companies. Customer satisfaction and loyalty grow, internal processes can be optimised. Discover more about the effects of returns on the B2B business and which measures can be taken to prevent these.

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Effects of returns on the business

Complaint management, or returns management, is an overall term used to describe all the measures and actions a company takes to handle complaints from customers and, consequently, the product returned. In the area of B2B, returns are when the retailer sends back the product to the manufacturer. Although returns in B2B are not as common as they are in the B2C segment, where in Germany an estimated 490 million items were returned in 2018 in online retail alone, they have a strong, negative impact on the business nonetheless.

As the B2B buying process report from Sana Commerce from the year 2019 found, 44 per cent of B2B buyers criticise an online order from one of their top ten vendors at least once every two weeks. Nine per cent make a complaint daily. The returns resulting from this cause considerable losses. On average, they reduce profitability, efficiency and productivity by 6 to 10 per cent, and sales by 1 to 5 per cent. What’s more, there is the danger that buyers and vendors cut ties due to incorrect products, wrong purchasing information or shipping information, or incorrect ads in the web shop, making bothersome returns inevitable.  


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Minimising costs and understanding customer needs

Professional returns management is worthwhile for two reasons: First, it minimises costs associated with the return shipping of products. Second, it lets you understand and satisfy the needs of customers better. This boosts customer satisfaction, which, in turn, leads to more orders, fewer customers jumping ship, and an overall increase in sales. Those who see returns as a chance, optimise their offers and services over time. After all, most returns are made because of errors in the vendors’ processes – in other words, due to circumstances which the customer cannot influence.

Measures to avoid returns

To avoid returns in the B2B segment, companies can take both preventive as well as reactive measures: 

Make the product descriptions more precise: Incorrect products are the most frequent reason for mistakes made in the online order, and thus for returns. Detailed product descriptions, including photos and specifications, help the customer to clearly recognise the item needed. Links to explanatory videos complement the description of devices, replacement parts or functions and material. Technologies like augmented reality can convey a real-life impression. Authentic test reviews provide a deeper insight into the functionalities of the product.

Make it easier to return products: Although it may sound paradoxical at first, it should be as easy as possible for B2B customers to return products, by providing an enclosed returns form and customer-friendly terms and conditions. If returns are easy for the customer, requiring only very little time, and returns are promptly handled, this intensifies customer loyalty, which is especially important in the business customer arena.

Make it possible to handle returns online: 34 per cent of buyers from the above-mentioned B2B report would choose vendors who allow for the online handling of returns. For this, they must have access to their order history and their account information at all time. The customer can then handle the returns over a longer period of time. Before completing the returns process, the customer prints out the returns delivery note, which they then include with the product. Afterwards, a so-called return notice is included in the ERP system. Returns management modules for B2B online shops help to achieve this. 

Make an analysis of the reasons for a return and monitor the product quality: A precise analysis of the reasons for a return is essential for making conclusions on possible internal weaknesses. Returns should also undergo an exact quality control process so that the production process can also be adjusted if necessary.

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