You, LeBron James, & The Decision (To Change Fulfillment Providers)

Are you the LeBron James of your ecommerce organization? Are you facing a life-altering, career-changing decision where the choices are clear, and the outcomes are unknown? If you’re considering free agency from your current outsourced fulfillment provider, you may be surprised to realize that you and The King have more in common than you think.

If you’ve been out of touch the last few weeks, you know that Mr. James recently left the Miami Heat to return home to play for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, a team he left several years ago to pursue a better shot at a championship. Sure, he won a few while there, but things didn’t feel right down south anymore. This year’s decision was met with just as much media frenzy as 2010’s ‘The Decision,’ an hour-long special that aired on ESPN and unveiled his team choice live to millions of viewers.

You might not have millions of fans, but the decision to switch fulfillment vendors will impact every one of your customers. Even if your current partnership isn’t working out, it can be easier at times to stay with the situation you’re already in rather than going into something new and unknown. After all, LBJ returned to the team that drafted him in the state where he grew up. But if you’re considering a big decision of your own, Mr. or Ms. Operations Rock Star, here are a few things that should help shape your contract negotiations:

  • Costs: Are you moving to save money on your operations? Suppose you’re not getting more ‘bang’ for your buck – either you were underutilizing more expensive services or were being charged for needing more than your partner can provide. In that case, money as a motivator can be dangerous. The adage ‘You Get What You Pay For’ has never been truer than when applied to outsourced operations. Cheaper isn’t always better – in fact, most of the time, it may not even cover what you need.
  • Perks: Do you want to start offering product personalization, but your current vendor doesn’t have the capacity? Are their contact centers not directly linked to their warehouse systems? Do you get better freight rates, volume discounts, or additional shipping options by going to another company? Carefully consider the pros and cons before signing on the dotted line – and ensure that they can back up what they promise by asking to speak with current and former clients.
  • Location, location, location: Every superstar wants to play in front of a hyped-up, loyal crowd and represent a city that spends time and money to support its team. Similarly, you’ll want to have your products in warehouses closest to your key customer base. Does your current partner offer the best rates and services for your target markets? Finding a provider near major freight lanes will save you both time and money during the shipping process, giving you more flexibility during the order fulfillment process and more for your customers to cheer about!
  • Supporting staff: Michael had Scottie. LeBron had D-Wade and Bosh. KG had Ray Allen (and a few others). No matter how awesome you are at your craft, you’ll need a solid supporting cast to achieve your goals. The same is true in ecommerce. If the rapport with your current provider is suffering and hasn’t improved (they cover up mistakes, you don’t trust them, they over-promised and under-delivered), then it may be time to take your talents elsewhere. Find a partner who will eat, sleep, and breathe your brand – one that will be flexible to your unique needs instead of forcing you to work within their pre-defined system. It’s also important to research what industry partners, integrations, and working relationships a new provider has so that you’ll know who and what you’ll have access to.
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