So you’ve worked hard on your online business, and your products are starting to fly off the shelves. Amidst all the excitement, you notice that the details of packaging and shipping are starting to take up more and more of your time, which is already spread thin.
It’s time to find an order fulfillment partner.
However, entrusting another company with your inventory and warehousing operations is no trifling matter. Your brand image and customer satisfaction levels are at stake, and switching providers is a major undertaking.
Here’s how to choose the right company the first time:
Check the Track Record
Many companies promoting themselves as order fulfillment companies are actually just warehouses with little to no experience in inventory management, product reordering, shipping regulations, etc. Usually these companies’ methodologies read something like, “How hard can it be? Just throw it in a box and take it to the post office!”
That’s actually a pretty accurate statement when you’re only shipping 10 items a day, but high-volume shipping handled by an inexperienced provider is a recipe for disaster. You want to be sure that the company you choose can handle your products as sales grow, and you definitely don’t want to have your service quality jeopardized by your fulfillment provider taking on another client.
Choose a company that has been providing fulfillment for at least several years.
Ask to See the Pick-Error Rate
Order Fulfillment companies are not created equal.
The industry average pick-error (shipping the wrong item) rate is 1 percent, meaning that 1 in every 100 orders will be incorrect. However, that figure is an industry average. The truth is that many companies have much, much lower error rates (and many have much higher).
A 99% success rate may sound pretty good – until you consider the fact that a fulfillment house ships hundreds (if not thousands) of products every day. That adds up to be a lot of mistakes.
Ask to See Their Process
A good order fulfillment company should have a well-documented and time tested process for delivering the right items on time, every time. Any company that has such a process knows that it sets them apart from the competition, and should be proud to show it to you.
Take a good look at the process they show you. Does it make sense, or does it look like something they just threw together last minute? Be skeptical.
Call The Support Line
In the event that a sale goes sideways and you need to do some emergency cleanup, it’s imperative that you can get in contact with your provider quickly.
Obviously, if you ask a salesperson how their customer service and support is, they’re going to tell you that it’s awesome. They might even be extremely convincing. However, there’s really only one way to be sure, and that’s to call them.
When you call, how long does it ring before you get a response? Do you get a computer or a real person? Is the person helpful and friendly?
Ask for References
Another simple way to find out if the company you’re considering is worth their salt is to ask their current customers. Ask the sales person for some references, and they should be happy to give you a way to get in touch with another customer.
Choosing an order fulfillment provider is a big job, and the most important thing you can do is research. Don’t skimp! Keep your head on straight, think logically, and ask for advice and help from someone knowledgeable if you need to.
Keep this in mind and you’ll do great!