Fulfillment Etiquette: Building a Better Relationship with Your 3PL

There’s nothing worse than checking into Heartbreak Hotel — just ask Elvis. If finding the perfect fulfillment match wasn’t hard enough, newly-minted merchants and 3PL duos have to face the daily realities of working as a team, which can be quite an adjustment for companies used to the bachelor lifestyle. But, like peanut butter and jelly, making it work is all about bringing out the best in each other, whether the situation calls for sourdough or whole grain.

No relationship is 100% sunshine and rainbows, but following the right pointers will get you that much closer to a partnership that truy stands the test of time. From first-date flutters to long-term hijinks, achieving some much-needed balance shouldn’t be too hard with these tried-and-true tips. Let’s dive in!

Do Your Homework

You know what they say about preparation — it’s half the victory. When you’re about to take the plunge with a new fulfillment partner, it’s imperative that you know what you’re in for before you’re, well, in it. 

In case you’re in need of a refresher, here are five vital considerations:

  • Services offered. Does your 3PL check off the right boxes for your business? Would you have to change any aspect of your daily operations if you were to make the switch? 
  • Technology and integrations. Can your 3PL integrate with your shopping cart or marketplace? If not, how will you be getting your orders out to them? Hint: 1999 called, and spreadsheets are not the answer. 
  • Location. Is your 3PL in a strategic location? It doesn’t have to be near you, but it should be accessible and convenient to all or the majority of your demographic.
  • Price. Is your 3PL affordable? Do you understand the fees and rates in your contract?
  • Experience and reputation. How long has your 3PL been in business? What do clients, previous and existing, have to say about it?

While homework is best done prior to turning in an assignment, it’s totally okay to brush up on anything you may have missed. Worst case scenario, you’ll find that your current partner is so incompatible that jumping ship is the only way to go. Hey, we all make mistakes — and not reading the rest of this blog would be another one, so hang tight! 

Be Realistic

Trade those rose-tinted glasses for some sensible bifocals. It’s crucial for your 3PL to know exactly where your business is at, otherwise they might not be able to give you the world-class service you deserve.

For instance, let’s say you’re currently at 100 orders a month, but your marketing game is so strong that you expect to double or triple that amount in no time. Unfortunately, precision is pretty much a prerequisite in the realm of eCommerce and logistics, which means that concrete, tangible data will trump estimates every time. 

Luckily, there’s a happy medium — ever heard of being optimistically realistic?

Set Clear Expectations

You can’t hit your targets when you’re surrounded by a fog. Even the best fulfillment partners aren’t mind readers, so being crystal-clear on the kind of services you expect is a must. From shipping times to packaging options and beyond, holding back on the details, both big and small, will only create roadblocks down the cobblestone path.

Follow Key Guidelines

Rules are meant to be broken… sometimes. When it comes to ensuring a smooth operation, sticking to agreed-upon guidelines is a no-brainer. For example, if your fulfillment partner requires inventory to be packaged a certain way before it reaches their warehouse, taking a page out of the instruction manual could save you from guaranteed headaches, inevitable time wasted, and potential fines — whew!

Stay Two Steps Ahead

Admittedly, it’s a little tricky to stay two steps ahead when the eCommerce supply chain is composed of so many moving parts, so baby steps are perfectly acceptable here. However, whenever possible, set your time machine forward as far forward as it goes, especially during peak sales season, when stress levels are at an all-time high. Anticipating what’s to come is a gift that will keep on giving, and your 3PL will thank you for keeping them in the loop!

Communicate Clearly and Often

Talk is cheap, but not if we’re talkin’ fulfillment. Unless you’re bombarding your reps with unnecessary info (we doubt it!), keep the juicy stuff coming. New customization requests? Let them know. Updated order volumes? Let them know. Cute pet pictures? Let them know. Be a good communicator and watch life get a whole lot easier.

As you can see, building an excellent partnership with your 3PL is as easy as 1, 2, 3… 4, 5, 6. Of course, don’t forget that relationships are a two-way street… holding up both ends of the bargain is the only way that teamwork can make the dream work.

Questions? Feedback? Talk to us! Your thoughts are always welcome. 

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