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Chad wonders if he should change his fulfillment partner.

5 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Fulfillment Center

If there’s any indisputable truth to the world of eCommerce and logistics, it’s that things are constantly changing. What worked yesterday might not work today, and what doesn’t work today might work tomorrow. If you’ve stumbled upon this article, chances are that you’ve already chosen your fulfillment match. But, as your business changes (which it will!), it’s up to your 3PL to adapt. If they can’t do that, you’ll probably have to jump ship… to another ship.

But how do you know for sure? We’re here to help! If you and your fulfillment partner have been experiencing some trouble in paradise, then it’s time to to take off those rose-colored glasses and check out these five red flags. Read on to find out what to look for if you think you’re ready for a fulfillment change.

#1 Mispicks Galore

When your customers are getting scented markers instead of weighted blankets, then Houston, we’ve got a problem. Constant mispicks are a surefire way to turn away new customers and disappoint existing ones. While some margin of error is normal, anything less than almost perfect is a source of concern. Think about it like this: If you ship 1,000 orders a month, a 99% accuracy rate still means that 10 customers will receive the wrong items. No bueno.

It could be that mispicks are a recent problem for you, or it could also be that your 3PL has always struggled with hitting the bullseye. Regardless of the situation, a 3PL worth its salt will prioritize investing in the right strategy and technology (more on that later!) to prevent order inaccuracies at all costs. If that’s not happening, then it’s time to say farewell… or risk your customers doing the same to you!

#2 Radio Silence

It sure is frustrating to not hear back from someone. You wait, and wait, and… nada. Now apply that to a professional setting, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Granted, you probably don’t want to get blown up with notifications and emails every hour, but a daily or weekly check-in is often all it takes to establish a baseline of rapport. Without some updates, it’s hard to tell if things are going well… or if tiny elves have broken into your 3PL’s warehouse and stolen all your products.

It also goes without saying that your questions and concerns should be addressed in a timely manner. Constant delays and incomplete answers are a clear indicator that communication may not be your 3PL’s strong suit. If that’s the case, then it’s better to see yourself out and find a fulfillment center that plays with a full deck.

#3 Bad Tech (Or No Tech)

When you partner up with a fulfillment center, you want to be paired with computer geeks, not computer jocks. It’s an overlooked fact, but powerful technology is one of the core elements of fulfillment. Without it, things like software integration, order management, and inventory forecasting are practically impossible. A 3PL is responsible for not only providing the technological goods, but also for making your software experience intuitive and user-friendly. 

Take stock of your current needs and see if your 3PL is able to match them. Also check if previous mistakes could’ve been mitigated — or prevented — had your software solution been more sound. If you’re starting to think that Aunt Gladys has more of a technological knack than your fulfillment center, it’s time to log out of this business partnership. 

#4 Sky-High Rates

Cost is a major factor when it comes to choosing a fulfillment center. When you signed up with your 3PL, you were likely given a quote for their services, covering everything from shipping to picking and packing. While it’s normal to pay slightly above or below that, since a quote is only an estimate, skyrocketing prices are usually a sign that something’s up.

The only exception would be if your business has been expanding, in which case it makes sense to pay more relative to your volume. But, if that’s truly what’s happening, then you should be able to renegotiate your current rates to reflect your growth. Either way, an increase in pricing is always worth looking into.

#5 Stunted Growth

Your 3PL is there to help you grow. Period. More space, more manpower, and more technology should equal a booming business — but what happens when that’s not the case? While being objective about your own track record is important, it’s equally important to analyze how your fulfillment partner has been contributing to your business. Are they helping you reach a larger customer base? Allowing you more time to focus on things like marketing and product development? Saving you money? If the answer is no to any of these questions, then it’s time for a change. 

Luckily, upgrading to a better fulfillment partner doesn’t have to be too complicated. For one, you’ve got keener eyes than ever before, having experienced what you don’t want. For two, we’re here to help you out! If you loved this article, then you might want to check out two more resources that’ll prepare you for the big switch:

Of course, you can always shoot us a line if you have any questions!

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