UPS Inc. said today it will launch a product returns service that, for the first time in North America, will allow shippers to receive a replacement item while simultaneously tendering the defective product to the same driver. The new offering will launch in October.
The service, called "UPS Returns Exchange," will be the first on the continent to combine delivery and pickup services to support reverse logistics operations, according to the Atlanta-based transport and logistics giant. It is primarily aimed at businesses in the high-tech, electronics, and retail industries, which have high-value products requiring special attention and handling, said Director of New Product Development Sumeet Shroff.
Under the new service, a UPS driver will deliver a replacement item while at the same time retrieving the item marked for return. The driver will help the customer unpack the replacement product, and then will pack the returned item in the same packaging before sending it through the UPS system back to the shipper.
These added steps will not compromise the carrier's tightly engineered time standards, Shroff said. "I can guarantee that we can do this very, very efficiently. We've built in appropriate time allocations to account for this. It is not going to have any measurable impact on the overall efficiency of operations or on other schedules."
UPS said shippers that use the service would no longer need to first send an empty box for the customer to pack a return thus cutting down on packaging material waste. In addition, the risk of any further product damage should be reduced because a UPS driver is overseeing the return's packing and handling, the company added.
The company said its tracking technology links the replacement and return shipments, providing real-time, end-to-end visibility of the entire transaction. This allows shippers with sophisticated information systems to track as a single movement transactions that typically are handled separately, Shroff said. It also enables more automation of returns management by allowing shippers to automatically issue credit to customers as soon as the driver scans the returned item. Additionally, shippers can automatically send a pre-alert by e-mail, voice, or text the day before the driver is scheduled to arrive, he said.
UPS Returns Exchange will be rolled out in October in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Puerto Rico. For several years, UPS and some of its rivals have offered a similar "swap" service in Europe, where packaging waste is highly regulated.