You decided to outsource your order fulfillment. But things haven’t been great. Are you worried that you made a mistake? Or, are you planning to outsource your fulfillment and are unsure how to make the best decision? There are a lot of ways to tell if you’re on the wrong path, but here are six red flags that should have you running for the hills:
1. Signing a contract is all it takes to get started. A contract is important because it will define the range of outsourced services, responsibilities, and costs for what’s performed. However, if the provider doesn’t take a deeper dive into understanding your business, your product mix, or your customer base – and worse yet, doesn’t seem to care – then chances are they’re going to put just as much effort into fulfilling your orders. Don’t just sign on the dotted line without them putting in some effort.
2. They don’t give you a tour. Have you ever seen ‘Hoarders’? Most of the people on that show claim they haven’t seen the inside of the hoarder’s house for years – and that’s no accident. An entire piece of your business and all of your inventory will be housed in your outsourced provider’s warehouse – if the provider won’t let you see it, or visit when you want, you should be concerned. We’ve heard a nightmare story that involved a client’s product being kept near the exit where employees smoked. The result was that all their product had a faint smoke smell and unhappy customers.
3. They make it seem like anyone can do fulfillment. This might seem strange since ideally, every partner wants to appear irreplaceable. But if your fulfillment provider has a lackadaisical approach to operations – “we just stuff things in a box and ship it out” – and doesn’t seem to worry too much about order accuracy, returns rates, or order appearance, that’s a definite red flag.
4. They make you feel like a small fish in a big pond. While it’s no secret that outsourced fulfillment providers typically serve dozens to hundreds of retailers at the same time, no true partner will ever make you feel like your business isn’t as important as other clients’. You should still get personal attention, a dedicated manager focused on your success and immediate responses to your questions and suggestions.
5. It’s all about the money. Yes, third-party fulfillment does cost money (just like in-house fulfillment does). But costs shouldn’t be the sole reason you select one partner over another – because more often than not, you’ll get what you pay for. Picking the right provider means finding one whose services, business goals, and communication methods match up best with your company’s vision. Many times, the cheapest solution isn’t the best.. and might not even be able to cover what you need.
6. They don’t communicate. The key to a truly successful outsourced partnership is communication between your brand and your vendor. As the retailer, it’s your job to inform your fulfillment provider of upcoming promotions, new products, and changes to your branding to make sure the messaging stays consistent and your operations don’t suffer. But if your provider doesn’t bother to update you with performance statistics, collected customer data, or – even worse – issues and problems during the fulfillment process, you should be alarmed. “No news is good news” just doesn’t cut it when your entire business’s operations are on the line!