As your business grows, you may find yourself unable to handle your own warehousing, fulfilment, and distribution in-house, and ready to delegate some or all of these functions to a fulfilment house or other 3PL. This is a good place to be for most businesses, but it can be nerve wracking to turn over such vital functions to another company. Most worrying is the customer care issue.
How can you be assured that your 3PL will treat your customers as you would want them to be treated?
Something is bound to go wrong with a certain percentage of orders, even if you did do it all yourself. How do you deal with being responsible for mistakes when you may never have laid hands on the project, or even processed the order?
Let me give you an example of doing it all wrong:
My significant other and I recently went to a brick and mortar store looking for garden furniture. We found the right table and chairs set at a good price, and told a floor associate that we’d take that one. We were told that they didn’t have any in-store, but could home deliver it unassembled within 2 days. I know how this works, so I wasn’t overly surprised.
Two days later five large flat packs arrived, and I got to work assembling it during a brief sunny period. Simply put, they sent the wrong chairs. I didn’t like the ones they’d sent, and I hadn’t ordered these. I rang the store, who said I’d have to call the number on the delivery paperwork (their order fulfilment organisation, though they didn’t say it that way). I did so, and was referred to an email address to explain my troubles to. The email reply instructed us to talk to the store. We did, angrier this time, and they insisted it was nothing to do with them. I’ll stop the story there before it gets messy. Needless to say we won’t be shopping there again. I know it was a 3PL, doing their warehousing, pick-and-pack and fulfilment. I still blame the store for using them.
So how can you ensure your 3PL works the way you need them them to?
Make sure you know your fulfilment house’s returns policy, and make sure they follow it. They are acting in your name, and the customer will attribute their actions to you (even if they know how it all works). Talk to them, and ask them to advise you on returns. Most of them understand that your customers really are theirs as well, and will be willing to give excellent customer service. If they don’t, well, there are a lot of others out there.