E-commerce is a business sector that quite literally spans thousands of international companies internationally. That heightens the importance of great business partnerships.
For most e-tailers, working relationships with the fulfillment centers who pick, pack, and ship their products are the most central alliances they have. Cooperation between e-commerce companies and fulfillment centers needs to grow and develop in ways that benefit both businesses’ bottom line. If that growth stalls or never happens, it may be prudent to reconsider whether it’s time to make a change.
Fulfillment centers aren’t under the same roof as one’s business, so it’s not always easy to monitor the aspects that need improvement. Here are a few things you can watch for. If these factors are changing from one-off occurrences to more permanent patterns, it may be time for your company to find a new partner for order fulfillment.
Frequent order mistakes
No company in the history of business has a perfect record of order fulfillment. Mistakes happen, and they’re not all fatal. But even a negligible, single-digit error rate can become problematic with a large customer base.
Picking is a fundamental component of retail fulfillment. When a customer orders a black pair of headphones but gets pink ones instead, that’s a breakdown in the core process of e-commerce.
If your fulfillment center’s error rate is pushing upwards, you need to address that increase and find the point where orders go awry. When mispicks become more common, it’s time to reconsider your partnership.
Consistent and upfront communication is a necessary plank of all business partnerships. Your fulfillment center needs to keep you apprised about what’s going on with your inventory and deliveries. They need to provide regular and consistent updates and directly address your concerns.
If your fulfillment center contacts have suddenly dropped off the face of the earth, they’re defaulting on a pretty huge responsibility. No matter how busy or complex business gets, there should always be someone at your fulfillment center who can speak with you directly.
Outdated, slow, or absent tech support
The 21st century is nearly one-quarter over already — it’s far past time for all businesses to have technology at the crux of their operations. Everyday business operations like customer database maintenance, inventory management, delivery tracking, and business forecasting are unthinkable without software support.
As your fulfillment center’s partner, a good deal of your communications depends on user interface and proper software integration. It needs to be as seamless and reliable as possible. If you notice delays or errors arising from slow, antiquated, or even non-existent technology on their side, it’s time to rethink your relationship.
Rapidly increasing rates
Fulfillment centers have the same ambitions as any other business: to expand and increase revenue. It’s logical to expect that their fees may increase, especially as both your businesses grow. But sudden, sharp rises in the rates they charge — particularly if there’s been no substantial change in service level or concurrent business expansion — are surprises that you may need to investigate.
You and your fulfillment center agreed to service according to the estimates they gave you. While minor fluctuations aren’t usually a big deal, major inflations in their fees may indicate something’s off. If the changes weren’t sufficiently communicated to you in advance, it’s time to look elsewhere.
Stagnancy in operations and growth
Again, the goal of business ownership is to grow. A solid relationship between you and your fulfillment partners should result in the broadening of your customer base, the delegation of picking and shipping duties, and steadily growing economic returns. Having the patience to mature your business responsibly is one thing — being stuck at the same level for too long is quite another.
If your relationship with your fulfillment center hasn’t resulted in some measure of growth in revenue or customer base, it’s time to look into the problem. Also, if you find yourself constantly dealing with issues and procedures you hired the fulfillment center to take care of in the first place, a change may be due.