Top 7 Things to Look For In a Fulfillment Center
You’re a small business with products that help define your brand. Your business may have a long track record or just beginning; with so many possibilities, you may be considering outsourcing your e-commerce.
But, what do you need to know before making a decision on which one will benefit your company the most? Here are the top 7 things you should be looking at in a fulfillment center, and then FulfillMe will dig deeper to look at each individually.
Top 7 items
- Types of services
- Customer assistance
- Experience in the field
- References from clients
- Terms and policies
Type of service a fulfillment center may offer
There are several types of services a fulfillment center may offer; some of these are:
- Inventory holding
- Return managing
- Kits and assembly
- Software assimilations
- Customer assistance
- Order and stock control
Depending on your business and products, you may only need a few of these, or you may need all of them. You also may need something not listed; if that is the case, make sure to discuss it with the center before contracting with them.
Location, location, location
Location, location, location is essential. Depending on your business, you may only need domestic, or you could need international worldwide. If you are planning on extending from domestic to worldwide, but you are not quite there yet, you should make sure that the center you choose will be able to go worldwide when you are ready.
The center’s technology should be looked at and investigated to make sure it will fit in and work with your shopping cart or marketplace. Ask for a demo; you want to see if the software can handle the job but remain user friendly and intuitive.
Customer assistance is a critical area in business. If the center offers customer assistance, do your due diligence and call them as a customer. See how they handle the call if they are professional and can answer your questions.
Use all forms of customer assistance; email, phone, live chat will give you a better idea of how your customers will be treated.
Experience in the field
How much experience your fulfillment center should have is a personal choice. For some, a smaller and new center will have the latest software and machines that are more likely able to keep up with trends. On the other hand, a center that has been around for 10, 15, or 20 years can handle just about any issues that arise.
References or referrals can help you determine if a center is able to do the job correctly and on time. Check for reviews, testimonials, and also check with the BBB for claims against the company. These will all give you a good idea of what the center’s reputation is like. A word of caution though, pay attention to spelling and wording in reviews, as some are written by people who are paid to write them. Or they are disgruntled because they did not follow the terms of services and policies.
Terms of service and policies
- What is the center responsible for, and what is not their responsibilities are.
- What your responsibilities are and are not
- Are there service fees? What happens if the payment is late?
- Cancellation policy, does it have a penalty for early cancellation? What is the procedure?
- Insurance information, procedures for when a product is lost or stolen
If any of it is unclear, ask the center to explain it to you and or ask a lawyer for their professional opinion. Never sign anything you do not feel comfortable with or have a good understanding of what it is saying.
How to determine what you need
When it comes to determining what your business needs are for a fulfillment center, it can seem a little daunting at first. Do not panic or allow yourself to begin to feel overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and grab a paper and pen.
List your needs, such as shipping, customer service, inventory management, and any special requirements you may have. Then add location(s) plans. Will you stay domestic or branch out to worldwide? You need to consider your business plan for the next five to ten years in order to make sure that the center you choose will grow with you.
Now look at different marketplaces and fulfillment centers, make a list of pros and cons for each one to compare it to the list of your needs. Once you compare these, you can come up with one or two centers that will work for you and your business.
At that point, it boils down to a personal choice. If it has been a while since you spoke to customer assistance there do it again. Make sure that you are getting the best center for your business.
It sounds like a tough job at first, but if you break it down into the steps listed here, you can find the right fulfillment center for you and your business. One that will grow with you and meet your future needs as well as the requirements of today.