Where the market is highly competitive, all you need is a reliable order fulfillment center to gain a competitive advantage. Partnering with the right provider will save you unnecessary costs, enhance your customer service, and allow you to work on more critical issues to ensure the business thrives.
With eCommerce, you have to think about shipping the products, warehousing, and a fulfillment center. However, you need to understand that securing a fulfillment provider covering all your business concerns is not easy but outsourcing a fulfillment center frees up time, and it is cost-effective.
The cost of choosing the wrong fulfillment center
If you do not do it right, it could be the start of your business downfall. Picking the wrong company to fulfill your orders could lead to many dissatisfied customers and an irreparable public image. Some fulfillment centers will make gross mistakes such as selecting the wrong inventory, delivering to the wrong location, or even losing the transit products.
You want to avoid all these issues with the company you choose to work with. That is why you have to ask the right questions upfront, in your vetting process. Understand all the fulfillment center dynamics to see whether they are competent enough to handle the logistics.
Choosing the Right Fulfillment Center Partnership
Fulfillment centers are responsible for receiving, storing, packing, and shipping your products to your customers. Therefore, they have a massive impact on the customer experience. Here are some of the crucial questions to ask before signing the contract:
1.) How reliable is your company?
Your ability to get products to the consumers determines how successful your business will be and the reputation. In case of any hiccups along the way, the firm is bound to suffer either losses or a tainted image. Today, consumers have been accustomed to faster deliveries. Customers will not stomach any delays or even incorrect products, meaning you have to do it right.
That is where the ideal order fulfillment company comes in. The company should be reliable in terms of delivery time and logistics. They should not just assure you how reliable they are; look at the policies put in place. Do they favor you as the customer? How does the company protect you in case of delays or even damages done?
Ensure the fulfillment provider has an order accuracy guarantee and an inventory accuracy and read what is written on these guarantees. The guarantees should ensure the vendor is liable for damaged or lost goods in transit or in their storage facility. You could also ask for customer references to assess the level of customer satisfaction.
2.) What is your pricing strategy?
Every business owner will be mindful of expenses. One should cut costs as much as possible to accrue the highest profits. Therefore, you ought to ask for the pricing strategy of the fulfillment center before you sign the contract. Every company will have a different pricing plan, which could be broken down as follows:
- Storage fees
- Receiving costs
- Picking and packing fees
- Packaging material costs
- Shipping rates
Apart from these costs, you should also ask about any monthly requirements or up-front costs. You want to choose a fulfillment company that is cost-effective for your business. Some companies will not charge some of these services, but they will look for ways to compensate. You could find a company with no storage fees but a higher shipping fee to cover up for the storage rates. That is why, when outsourcing, you should look at the individual rates and the overall costs.
3.) Is your security tight enough?
When looking for a fulfillment vendor, security for your commodities should be a priority. You do not want to work with a company where your goods are easily damaged or at high risk with every encounter. Several calamities could happen at the warehouse, like burglaries and fire outbreaks damaging the goods.
You want to work with a fulfillment center that takes necessary precautions against all these incidents that could affect your inventory. Pick a company that monitors everything all the time via cameras, has a backup plan in the case of natural disasters such as a storm, etc. Power outages will not matter to customers if the food stored in freezers goes bad.
Another major problem in warehousing is employee theft. To some employees making a dollar from stolen goods seem too enticing, and they can’t keep their hands off the inventory. Your ideal fulfillment provider should vet its employees to ensure they remain loyal and trusted. The firm should conduct background checks on the employees to determine their suitability to handle the merchandise.
4.) Are you going to integrate my shopping cart CRM?
A shopping cart is a software used by the store to make sales. It is not just the one platform that collects the products before the customer checks out; it shows how the store is managed and built. You could choose between several carts for your online store, but they all serve the same purpose of enabling online purchases.
With today’s eCommerce landscape, shopping carts are integrated with other marketplaces such as Etsy or Amazon. It becomes like a virtual real estate with several vendors on board. With a third party involved -fulfillment provider- the software is to be integrated with your shopping cart. Their software manages orders and monitors inventory levels.
For the provider to access all this information, they have to be integrated with your store’s system. That avoids too much paperwork in following up every transaction on spreadsheets.
5.) Can you handle customer service and interactions?
It is common for mistakes to happen in business, even in the most established firms. The real deal is how the fulfillment center will handle it. They could break or make your business. Before signing the contract, ask the provider how they deal with order inquiries. In case they do not handle them, then you will have to take the inquiries. But if the provider handles the inquiries, then handling complaints from customers is also essential.
The most loyal customer is one bad conversation away from saying goodbye to your company. If you don’t want the fulfillment center to offer customer service, you could still look at the support provided. Does the company have regular account reviews for standard checks? Does the firm have only one single point of contact? The service to your team and customers by the fulfillment provider will determine your overall success.
Fulfillment providers are ideal for virtually any business, but you ought to ask the right questions before signing the contract. You have to be sure the firm addresses your business’s pain points and gives you a competitive edge. Learn more about what questions to ask in our free white paper 20 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Potential Fulfillment and Returns Partner.
QuickBox is a trusted third-party fulﬁllment partner of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. The company offers its clients fulﬁllment, vendor management, and supply chain integration services. In addition, it offers private label services with over 50 health, beauty, and pet products. Its specialized focus and commitment to operational excellence led to rapid growth in the health, beauty, and pet segments. QuickBox has more than 300 employees in its Denver headquarters and Atlanta, Georgia, distribution center. More information is available at www.quickbox.com.