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RMA Meaning: What Is RMA & The RMA Process?

By
Joshua Weatherwax
Table of Contents

If you want to sell products, either as a B2B business or direct to consumer, you'll deal with returns.

That means you need to know what an RMA is and the role it plays in return processing.

Keep reading to learn more about RMA numbers, forms, and best practices.

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What Does RMA Stand for?

RMA is an acronym that stands for return merchandise authorization. It's the first part of the process of returning a product to a business to receive a refund, replacement, or repair. In this step, the business and customer discuss the problem and the business determines the validity of the issue.

RMAs play an important role in the reverse order fulfillment cycle (see order fulfillment meaning). They allow the business to understand the customer's problem with the product and agree on the next best steps. It also gives the warehouse a heads up that products will be coming back and has an impact on warehouse organization.

What Is an RMA Number?

An RMA number is the number assigned by a business to a particular order to authorize a product return. The number is used to track the products as they are processed. It allows the warehouse to automatically update warehouse inventory management software or an ERP system (see what is ERP) when they scan the number upon arrival.

RMA numbers are particularly useful for businesses that provide servicing and repairs for product returns. The returns these companies deal with must be processed both as they arrive and as they leave. This means tracking is vital so nothing gets lost and the products don't get mixed in with new product shipments.

What Is an RMA Form?

An RMA form is a document used to return products to a company. This form will outline the reason for the return and the expected next steps. It can be included with the product inside eCommerce packaging or sent out to customers upon request.

Here are the fields you should include on an RMA form:

Customer Information

The first set of fields you need to include will allow the customer to list all relevant information about themselves. At a minimum, you should have fields for their name, address, and phone number. This will allow you to send them a replacement if needed and look them up in your system to find their original order. This lets you make sure they're within the company's established return window.

Product Data

Here, your customer should be able to write what the name of the product is and the quantity they're returning. This information is very valuable as it lets the warehouse team know what products they'll have to store. The quantity is particularly important as the customer may have purchased multiple products, but are only returning one. If you enter the wrong quantity in your system it will make inventory management more difficult. You won't have the correct number of products on hand and this can lead to more issues with fulfillment.

Reason for Return

Another section you'll want to include is an area to identify why a product is being returned. You can have a series of checkboxes for more common issues or just an area to write a reason. This field provides insight into both the legitimacy of the customer complaint and identifying recurring problems with the product. If the same product is getting returned for a particular issue, you'll know you need to have a conversation with your supplier. You can also set inventory KPI based on the number of products being returned for different reasons. It will let you alert leadership when you hit a certain level of returns.

Return or Refund

If your company offers both returns and refunds for product issues, you'll need to make sure you have a field where the customer can request either choice. This will allow you to limit customer dissatisfaction and get the next steps started right away. The longer you take to resolve a customer issue, the less likely they'll be a return customer.

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What Is the RMA Process?

The RMA process involves many moving parts and can easily become a nuisance for customers. Creating a streamlined process is key to ensuring you maintain a good customer relationship. Product returns should be a simple process that is well-outlined in advance for customers, and is a core need for any online marketplace.

Luckily for BlueCart eCommerce customers, it has a very easy returns and refunds/credits system built into the platform. It allows customers to initiate a return from within the buyer app and the vendor or sales rep can authorize the credit or replacement in real-time. That avoids the headache often associated with returns and lets you keep your customers happy.

Here are the steps you should follow to create your RMA process:

First, define your return policies and processes. Without a solid understanding of what products can be returned and why, you risk upsetting customers and confusing warehouse staff. Establish firm time frames for allowing returns and outline valid reasons for returns. This will ensure your customers understand what they're allowed to do and prevent you from having a pile of dead stock from excessive returns.

Second, create an RMA form. You'll need to create a form that all customers can fill out to ensure you receive the data you need. Make sure to include all of the fields we listed above and any other data you need to help the warehouse management process flow.

Third, figure out shipping and handling. You need to determine how you'll handle shipping or picking up defective products, which includes common box sizes. You may want to include a packing slip and prepaid return slip with products. Just make sure you can afford to cover the returns. You can accomplish these goals more easily with a shipping label printer.

Frequently Asked Questions About RMA Meaning

RMA can be overlooked when you’re working on other aspects of your business, but it’s no less important. To get a better feel for RMA and how it’s used, check out the below questions: 

Why is RMA important?

RMA, or return merchandise authorization, is important for a few reasons. One, the RMA number gives the seller a way to track the type and quantity of product(s) being returned. It’s impossible to know how much merchandise was returned if you’re just guessing. 

Two, the RMA process allows customers to check the progress of a returned item. A customer that didn’t appreciate the product is often eager to get refunded quickly. Putting their RMA number into a company website form and getting the status is reassuring. 

What is RMA on Amazon?

An RMA on Amazon is much like the RMA process with other retailers. This number will be generated after a return request has been approved by an Amazon customer service representative. 

RMAs on Amazon are a little different in that not every item is eligible for a return. When a customer wants to return an item, they must first go to the “Orders” page, then find the item they want to return, and click on “Return or Replace Item(s).”

Next, the customer follows the on screen prompts to explain why they want to return the product. They select whether the product was defective, incomplete, the wrong product, etc. If the product is return-eligible, an RMA number will be assigned. The customer then brings the item to an Amazon returns location and Amazon handles the rest. 

What is an RMA slip?

An RMA slip is a piece of paper that contains the information necessary to process a returned item. Some companies provide RMA slips with every product shipped out, while others only send RMA information upon customer request. 

The RMA slip should contain at least four pieces of information. These include the product information (like SKU number or inventory number), customer contact info, reason for return, and refundable amount.

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Return of the Mack

An RMA is an important step in the product return process and should be set in stone to ensure success. Follow the steps above and create an easy-to-understand RMA form to make the process smooth. You'll also need to make sure to track RMA numbers.