What Questions Should You Ask a 3PL When Looking For Fulfillment Updated
Finding a 3PL warehouse is no easy task! Whether you are shipping domestically or internationally the vetting process takes time and requires patience. It is essential that you find out how a particular 3PL warehouse has performed in the past and how they will perform in the future. Since a 3PL will be a major business partner in storing and shipping your products it is important that you consider every aspect of the prospective company when making a decision. The only way to determine which 3PL is a good fit for you is to ask the serious questions.
Figuring out which 3PL is best for you can become tricky if you have a new business or do not know your exact needs. A good fulfillment center should be able to help you work through these questions and determine which services will add efficiency to your business.
Here are some questions that should help you find out more about prospective 3PL warehouses!
1. How successful have you been in the past?
Although this question may seem common, a company’s past performance is a great indicator of its future. Ask each provider how many logistics mistakes they typically make, and how they amend these mistakes. Asking how many clients a 3PL warehouse currently has can give you insight into the business. Furthermore, determining the infrastructure and technology investments that they have made in the past can show you how serious they are about increasing efficiency in the future. You can even speak with some current customers!
2. How do you track your performance?
You should stay away from warehouses that do not consistently track their performance, as they are operating blind. Ask the 3PL warehouse what metrics they use to track performance, and how they deal with deviations from their performance standards. Be sure to look into how the warehouse monitors inventory accuracy, order accuracy, and shipping accuracy!
3. What sales channels does your warehouse cater to?
Much of your business might relate to e-commerce, which is significantly different from something like B2B (business to business) from a logistics standpoint. Different sales channels require different specialized procedures for processes such as returns. By figuring out which channels a particular fulfillment provider focuses on, you’ll be able to determine whether or not it is an appropriate fit with your business.
4. Do you offer custom services?
If you need to ship unique products or have them packaged in a particular way, can the 3PL warehouse accommodate this? Even if you have found a seemingly perfect fulfillment center, it is important that they can carry out custom packaging and shipping services should you require them. In the “brand conscious” world of today, it is important that you are able to incorporate those special touches into your packages before they are delivered to your customers!
5. Do you require long term commitment?
Being stuck in a long-term contract with a fulfillment center can be dangerous should they not end up providing the service you expect. If the 3PL warehouse does require a contract, ask if you can place provisions in it. You want the freedom to move on if you are unhappy!
6. Can you integrate with my sales platforms?
You want a fulfillment center that is compatible with your sales platforms. If the 3PL provider cannot easily integrate with the systems you use to sell your products, you lose efficiency. Make sure that a prospective logistics partner meets your technological demands.
7. Is your pricing transparent?
Unfortunately, the fulfillment industry is known for its complicated pricing structures. To some extent this is understandable as 3PL warehouses often provide a wide array of services. Make sure there are no hidden fees so you are not surprised on your first invoice!
8. How will you compensate me for a mistake?
It is important to see if a fulfillment center will hold themselves accountable for their own mistakes. Be sure to ask how they treat any errors or discrepancies and how you will be compensated should they occur.