1. Relevant Services
The suite of services a fulfillment center offers has to be relevant to your business for them to become a strategic partner for you. It goes without saying that the basics (warehousing, shipping, and order fulfillment) ought to come as standard.
Beyond that, your company may have additional requirements that you need. For example, if you have a food delivery business that also handles perishables, a strategic fulfillment partner is one that has cold storage capacity and knowledge beyond mere warehousing. The ability of a fulfillment partner to be adaptable to the needs you have beyond the basics is what can set them apart.
As you assess each potential partner, don’t only look at their current offering. Explore any plans they may have for future expansion as that can help you figure out if they can be a dependable partner down the road.
For example, if you are an apparel firm looking to outsource, can the fulfillment partner move beyond packing and shipping to offering custom printing? Such expansionary plans can point to a reliable fulfillment partner.
2. Customer Support
While customer-facing problems are inevitable, it does not mean that you can’t have a system in place to tackle them effectively.
The level of customer support that you get from your fulfillment partner will directly affect how your customers perceive your business. Since they are unaware that you are sourcing third-party logistics service, any issue they may have will be attributed to your firm.
Thus, digging deep into the kind of service agreement you can get from a potential fulfillment partner is critical to your signing the contract.
How does the fulfillment partner empower you, as a business partner, to get in touch and forward any issue? Do they offer 24/7 access? Is there live support in case of escalated customer issues? These are all questions you ought to ask.
A reliable means to gauge if the potential fulfillment partner you have in mind responds in time is through benchmarking.
Find out how fast other firms offering similar services handle customer issues to have an idea as to whether the ecommerce fulfillment partner you are in talks with is at least meeting the market standard, if not exceeding it.
A fulfillment partner is an outsourced part of your business operations. Therefore, just as you have plans to grow your services, a fulfillment partner should have the capacity to scale with you.
Does the company you want to outsource fulfillment to have an employee structure that can enable you to handle surges in orders? Can they manage to scale their shipping up and down to match your growth trajectory? These are issues you should not assume are automatic, but instead hold pointed discussions over with the potential partner.
The last thing you want to do is be forced to switch fulfillment partners amid a boom in orders due to a lack of capacity from your current provider. That can only hurt your business by discouraging more orders because of the long turnaround times. It’s better to commit to a fulfillment partner you know can take the heat once you begin to scale.
4. No Lock-In
Some third-party fulfillment partners can choose to make a lock-in clause mandatory for you to sign the contract. Go for a vendor that does not offer a lock-in as that gives you room to test their services and change your mind if necessary.
5. Level of Technology Adoption
We live in a one-click world, and it’s easy to assume that every fulfillment partner has a similar technological infrastructure you can tap into. That’s not necessarily the case.
A critical part of differentiating your business is the simplicity that your customer can expect when ordering products. If they can feel the ‘magic’ that is clicking and having it show up with minimal friction, your customers will likely keep coming back, boosting your lifetime value per client.
To deliver such an experience, you need to work with a fulfillment partner that can empower you to leverage technology seamlessly. A reliable third-party logistics center will have the capacity to deliver orders directly from your platform to their center with no input from you.
Additionally, their backend software should be able to enable you (and your customers) to have a look at the status of each shipment.
Before you sign the contract, request a demo account to see how a typical order would move. Assess the back end experience to see if the potential fulfillment partner can meaningfully use technology to ease your operations while empowering you to offer a ‘magical’ user experience.
An excellent fulfillment partner will offer transparency on the pricing. You can get to know not only how much they charge, but precisely what you will get billed for. If there are hidden costs such as recurring fees that they don’t inform you upfront, then that can portend a bad relationship.
Pay attention to how flexible a fulfillment partner is concerning the length of time your goods can stay in storage. Friendly time limits can make or break your profitability.
Rest on the Shoulder of a Dependable Fulfillment Company
Shipping and fulfillment are critical aspects of your e-commerce business that can help you stay competitive. A third-party fulfillment company is an effective way to keep your shipping costs manageable (and pass that benefit onto your customers) while delivering on convenience. Identify what makes an excellent fulfillment partner to secure the right relationship for your firm.
CTK USA is a one-stop logistics, marketing, and branding solution with over 20 years in helping businesses serve their customers. Talk to us today to learn how you can leverage next-generation logistics service to delight and surprise your customers.