November 10, 2005, 12:00 AM

How Overstock slashed the number of customer calls about product returns

With a new returns management feature in its online customer service section, Overstock.com has reduced by more than half the number of customers who contact it to ask about processing a return, vice president of operations Tad Martin says.

 

With a new returns management feature in its online customer service section, Overstock.com has reduced by more than half the number of customers who contact its customer service agents to ask about processing a return, vice president of operations Tad Martin tells InternetRetailer.com.

“Before we changed to this system, every customer either e-mailed or called us to initiate a return,” Martin says. “But now more than half are initiating and processing the return themselves.” That has freed up Overstock’s customer service reps to be more efficient in handling other calls and to better focus on marketing and cross-selling programs.

Overstock, No. 19 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, is using the hosted ReturnCart returns management system from Newgistics Inc., which it implemented earlier this year. Customers access the system through the “My account” section on Overstock.com or through the FAQ section, then fill out a form explaining what is being returned and print out a returns label.

By integrating with carriers, the ReturnCart system alerts Overstock about the status of returns, including the weight of packages. That enables Overstock to send a confirmation and notice of a credit while the return is still in transit, instead of waiting until the return has been received at a warehouse, Martin says. “If we verify that the return is the same weight of the package we originally sent, we may immediately send an e-mail to the customer, saying ‘The returned package is on the way, here’s your credit,’” he says. “If we can get a credit to them a few days earlier than expected, it creates a good feeling for customers.”

 

 

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