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Reverse logistics requires handling customers with white gloves (with video)

Andrew Lockwood (left), of Suddath Global Logistics, speaks with Jason Neal, of Kenco, about the challenges of white glove, reverse logistics. (Photo: FreightWaves)

There is nothing simple about providing a reverse logistics service, especially for large replacement or return items that do not fit neatly into a small package.

However, more U.S. third-party logistics service providers (3PLs) and trucking companies in recent years have found this to be the type of niche service where their expertise can shine.

“We have found this especially important to our appliance customers and anyone doing furniture delivery,” Jason Neal, manager of dedicated accounts at Kenco, told Andrew Lockwood, senior manager of solutions design for Suddath Global Logistics, during a virtual FreightWaves Last Mile Logistics Summit fireside chat on Thursday about the peculiarities of providing reverse, white-glove logistics service.

“Those are companies that will be having old products removed or swapping out products when something goes wrong,” Neal said. “It’s always someone delivering something to a customer’s home that will be interested in this.”

Kenco in recent years has discovered success by offering reverse, white-glove services to home-product shippers. However, the ultimate success for this service rests on how the service provider interacts with the end customer.

Neal said the customers for this service are usually frustrated before Kenco is called on by the product manufacturer to correct the problem. Kenco takes great care in selecting its drivers for this service.

“We have the customer service representatives who happen to drive the truck and know how to install a product,” Neal said.

While a CDL is preferred, it is not a requirement for the drivers since the trucks used for Kenco’s reverse logistics service are smaller box trucks. Neal said the company has found success by recruiting people with strong retail or customer-interfacing backgrounds.

“It’s somebody who can absorb the frustration of a customer, hear their story, hear what’s going on and continue to go about their business with a happy face and keep that customer happy,” Neal said. “If you frustrate that customer, they will make your life harder and make that delivery longer.”

One of the successes with this service for Kenco is interacting with customers in their preferred form of communication, whether that be email, text or telephone. “Our drivers continue that communication through to delivery,” Neal said.

After each transaction is complete, Kenco conducts a survey with the reverse logistics customer about his or her experience with the service. This information not only helps to improve Kenco’s service, but the results are shared quarterly with the product suppliers to demonstrate the 3PL’s dedication to their business.

Neal told Lockwood that it is important for any 3PL or trucking company starting a reverse logistics service to carefully determine which products they will handle. For example, Kenco will not handle deliveries and returns for natural gas-powered appliances.

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Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Chris Gillis.

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Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.