Who Should You Trust with your E-commerce Fulfillment?

bigstockphoto_Man_With_Barcode_Reader_Works__5165279Last week’s post from Just out of the Box, “Small Business Tips for Selecting a Warehouse for Your Products,”  promised a more in depth discussion this week on selecting the right 3PL to handle your small business e-commerce fulfillment and distribution.

Just because a 3PL has a massive amount of space or a shiny new warehouse doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to handle your order fulfillment to your satisfaction.  In addition to the size and condition of their warehouse, you also need to know that the 3PL has the right systems and people in place to ensure your customers enjoy the highest quality online shopping experience possible.

Because satisfied customers are returning customers! bigstock_Solutions_2750008

Let’s look at SYSTEMS first. In a warehouse environment, the most important technical element is the Warehouse Management System or WMS for short.

The goal of a WMS is to streamline your order e-fulfillment for optimal efficiency and customer satisfaction. In order to achieve the highest level of both, you want your 3PL to utilize a WMS that includes the following functionality and features:

  • Seamlessly integrates with your e-commerce site so your customer orders flow directly from your website to your fulfillment source for quick, efficient and accurate order processing.
  • Facilitates inventory receipt ensuring that your products show up as “available” to your customers as soon as they are entered into the system at your warehouse provider.
  • Tracks your merchandise inventory based on the most important characteristics, such as color, size, lot number, warehouse location and even expiration dates, if applicable.
  • Makes reverse logistics easy and accurate so that your inventory records are always up-to-date and your customers are always pleased with the return process.
  • Provides real time, 24/7 inventory tracking for you, your sales agents, and, as indicated above, for your customers via your e-commerce site.
  • Ensures you know which products are selling and which aren’t so that you don’t end up with unwanted inventory on your hands.
  • Allows you as much control over your inventory as if it was in your own physical location.
  • Includes multiple automated messages to customers so they know the status of their order in real time.

bigstock_Fork_Lift_140222Now, let’s look at the PEOPLE.

While the right WMS provides the automation, efficiency, integration and accuracy that you require, exceptional order fulfillment and distribution also requires the right people.  At a minimum, you want to contract with a 3PL that places a high priority on the following areas of operations:

  • Hires professional and trustworthy individuals with excellent warehousing and customer service skills.
  • Trains its warehouse staff, including pick-n-pack staff, on all warehouse processes and procedures, as well as client-requested processes and procedures.
  • Continuously strives to improves its processes and procedures for efficiency and speed of order fulfillment.
  • Emphasizes that your merchandise belongs to you and not to the 3PL minimizing lost or damaged merchandise.
  • Creates and maintains the expectation that all staff will treat your merchandise and your customers with as much care as you would.
  • Incorporates quality control processes into its fulfillment procedures to ensure order accuracy.
  • Offers outsourced customer service representation for businesses who want to take the extra step to achieve superior customer satisfaction.

In the end, you want to choose a 3PL that has the entire package:  clean, spacious, secure and strategically located warehouse; fully automated and integrated WMS; and well trained, courteous and professional staff, using the most efficient fulfillment process and procedures.