30th August 2017 Richard Bland

Finding the right partner to deliver your fulfillment needs can be a daunting task.
Knowing what to look for in a fulfillment house can make the difference in your company surviving or thriving in a competitive market.

1. Does their tech support multiple sales channels?

Understanding the challenges of fulfilling orders through multiple sales channels is essential for any fulfillment partner. Make sure your chosen provider has a proven track record of integration tomultiple sales channels. Ask your potential fulfillment partner for references and case studies where integration may have been unique or complex. If anyone tells you that they can run your operation without bar-coded stock or using excel run a mile.

2. Do they integrate with your preferred couriers?

Reliable, cost effective shipping is key to your business success. Any fulfillment partner should be able to offer you great shipping rates and have a wide range of courier options available. Look for a partner that can use your weights and dimensions systemically thus selecting the most cost and service effective option Courier services should dovetail into your business needs, not the other way around.

4. Is there a tech team in house to deal with SKU, ASN and order line issues?

We all work hard to eliminate issues from our day-to-day business, but the reality is the unexpected still happens. Having a team of in-house techies who are trained and have experience in dealing with issues is essential to any fulfillment house. Ask your potential fulfillment partner what their in-house strategy to tech support, back-up’s and data protection is.

5. Do they get your business and can they provide relevant references or case studies?

Being able to pick, pack and deliver your products is a major part of fulfillment, but actually understanding your business is really where a fulfillment partner can make the difference. When speaking to potential partners pay attention to the questions they ask you. Adapting to the way you do business and understanding what is important to your customers will help you stand out from the crowd.

6. Can they use your branded packaging and print the necessary paperwork?

Bringing a personal touch to big business can be tricky, but it’s the little things that give you the competitive edge. If you use branded packaging make sure your fulfillment provider can pack your products in a way you would do it yourself. Can your provider offer gift wrapping, bespoke embossing, ribbon decoration etc? How about special messaging, personalized in-order notes and paperwork? Remember, your provider should fit in with your business model, not visa versa.

7. How will your potential partner deal with export orders?

Understanding export orders is another area your chosen partner should be well versed in. Dealing with customs and having an in-depth knowledge of customs requirements, duties, packaging and available shipping methods are essential to the smooth running of your business.

8. Do they have the necessary accreditations for your sector and can their systems cope with batch
control and drop-ship?

Your fulfillment partner should fit around your business needs. Perhaps your niche is alcohol or foods. Your chosen partner should be certified and have a full understanding of your sector. Don’t compromise or accept anything less than what you would offer your customers.

Date and batch control is often an overlooked area when looking for a shipping partner. The key focus is often on shipping at all costs. This is where standards generally go out the window and your customers start complaining about the quality of your product. Good fulfillment partners should be able to offer this level of stock control even during shipping as standard. If they can’t then ask yourself if you really want to risk doing business with them.

9. Is there an account management team and how quickly do they reply to tickets or calls?

Trust your initial impression from your first contact. Did your potential partner reply to your queries in a speedy and professional way? Will you have a one-on-one relationship with your fulfillment partner or be another faceless customer?

10. SLA’s and KPI’s.

It’s all well and good for your fulfillment partner to agree to deliver your goods on your behalf, but what does that really mean? Ask to see their SLA’s, Accreditations and KPI’s. If they can’t provide you these within a moments notice look elsewhere.

11. What is the sate of their warehouse?

Your goods and therefore your hard earned money will be stored in their warehouse. Are the facilities up to the same standards or better than you would keep your own? Do the people in the warehouse greet you and smile when you make a site visit? Are there boxes all over the floor and does the warehouse feel a little chaotic? These things may not be of concern to you, but these are the people who are storing and delivering your goods to your customers. Happy, enthusiastic people are going to go the extra mile for you.