When searching for a good fulfillment center, look for these 5 key features:
1. Inventory control
In real estate it’s “location, location, location.” In fulfillment it’s “inventory, inventory, inventory.” The most common complaint against fulfillment companies is incorrect inventory counts. You need to be confident when your fulfillment partner says you have 500 widgets left, there are indeed 500 there.
- Ask if they have an automated warehouse management system.
- Does it automatically deduct inventory at the time of shipment?
- Do you have 24/7 access to real-time inventory reports?
- How often do they perform cycle counts and how comprehensive are those counts?
2. Easy to use storefront
Whether you place orders for your team or your customers order directly, the ordering process must be seamless and simple to navigate. Many orders are dropped simply because the user finds the experience too cumbersome or confusing.
- Ask your prospective fulfillment partner to demonstrate their system.
- Can products be categorized into easy to understand groups?
- Can you place limits on the number of certain items people can order?
- Can the offers displayed be varied by who is viewing them?
- Will administrators have access to back end order reports?
- Can items be assigned to appropriate budgets?
3. An organized warehouse
If your prospective fulfillment center has trouble finding a product, they will have trouble shipping it. A fulfillment center should be well organized, free of clutter and look efficient.
- Ask how they organize and assign pallet spaces for your material.
- Do they barcode pallet spaces so they can instantly see what’s on the pallet?
- Do they barcode individual cartons so warehouse personnel can use scanners to verify order accuracy?
- Do they have a separate pick area where smaller, more manageable amounts of product can be staged for easier order packing?
4. Accurate order fulfillment in appropriate packaging
All the inventory control, web ordering and warehouse organization are meaningless if the order is filled incorrectly. Nothing upsets a customer more than to receive an item that is wrong, poorly packaged or damaged.
- Ask the fulfillment manager how an order is processed.
- Is the shipping function automated?
- What quality control procedures are in place throughout the process from order entry, to printing a pick/pack slip, pulling items from inventory, packing the order, and shipping the order?
- How do they determine what packaging will be used for each shipment?
- How do they fill void spaces?
- Do they shrink wrap literature to prevent dog ears and wrinkles?
- How do they seal cartons?
5. Good Customer service
All the first four essentials may be met by your fulfillment center, but if you don’t like the people you interface with or they don’t meet your needs, your experience will not be satisfactory. No matter how competent the fulfillment center is mistakes will occur. How the center’s management handles those situations can make all the difference in both your customer’s impression and yours.
- Ask how the fulfillment team is structured.
- Will you have a dedicated customer service representative?
- Who will that person be?
- What function will the customer service representative serve on your behalf?
- Do you have a good feeling about the entire staff?
Ready to talk about your fulfillment needs? Call us in San Diego at 619-448-6111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are glad to help!