The online shopping landscape has changed at lightning speed over the past several years. New entries into the 3PL market are emerging every day, and the choices can be confusing. Whether you manage a start-up company on the fast track for growth and are seeking fulfillment options for the very first time, or an established company looking to streamline your fulfillment process, there are hundreds of options out there to suit your specific needs. But where do you start when interviewing third-party fulfillment companies?
There are the five essential questions every company should be asking before signing with a 3PL company.
What experience does the fulfillment company have?
One of the most important things to know about a 3PL company is how long they have been in business. New fulfillment companies are springing up every day with the explosion of ecommerce, but they often lack the experience to meet clients’ and customers’ needs and expectations. As with any fast-growing sector of the economy, only the fittest survive.
If you’re comfortable with the company’s longevity, find out if they have experience managing your type of business, whether you are a wholesaler, subscription box, B2B, or B2C company. Ask for some examples of clients and projects they have managed so you can better understand if they have the experience you are looking for.
Buyers return items for many different reasons and can have as big (if not bigger) of an impact on the experience your customer has. It is important that your 3PL provider can not only handle your orders, but your returns as well. Reverse logistics is just as critical as order fulfillment, and you will want a company that can effectively and efficiently handle customer returns.
What are their volume requirements?
As noted previously, there is an overabundance of 3PL providers in the market. While effectively narrowing down the list will take time and effort, it will be worth the investment. Start with investigating their volume requirements. There is no use wasting your time considering a 3PL provider that has volume requirements above and beyond your expected needs or budget. On the other hand, if the fulfillment company is too small, it will not be able to effectively manage your needs.
Customer service and cost will vary drastically according to the size of a 3PL provider as well. Make sure that you won’t be the little fish in the big pond who may get lost because they are focused on their bigger clients. Go with a company that is large enough to fulfill your needs, but small enough to give your brand the personal care and attention it deserves.
Are they capable of growing with you?
Whether your business is well established or brand new, you should be focused on growth. Rather than start the process of finding a new 3PL partner each time you outgrow one, make sure the one you choose today can successfully fulfill your current needs and grow with your business in the future. There is an unforeseen bonus when you hire a 3PL company that manages fulfillment for clients of all sizes: they will have the experience to seamlessly expand your operation, expertly avoiding many pitfalls and growing pains that businesses encounter.
Does the 3PL company provide the level of service to meet your needs and expectations?
Delivering a product on time and in the exact condition it was guaranteed is essential to the success and growth of all companies.
To find out what level of service a 3PL company provides to you as the client, (and also to your customers) you must ask the right questions:
• Do they ensure order accuracy?
• Is a live person available to speak to you when you need them?
• What is their email response time?
If any of the answers to these questions does not meet your expectations, you can cross them off the list.
Is your prospective 3PL provider capable of accommodating your branding requirements?
You've often heard the expression, "presentation is everything," and in the 3PL business, that holds true. Always remember that your 3PL provider is a direct extension of your business and their performance will directly impact yours. As a representative of your brand that “hands” your product to your customer, it is important that the fulfillment company understands and respects the distinct qualities and presentation needs of your brand.
Find out how flexible and detail-oriented they are when it comes to special packaging requirements.
• Can they create the experience you envision for your customer?
• Can you set the standard for how your product will look when it arrives on your customer’s doorstep?
• And, finally, can you be confident that it will look good every single time?
It is important trust your 3PL provider implicitly, so you can focus on growing your business.
Provided by Fusion Fulfillment.
Learn more about us at www.fusionfulfillment.com.