There are many ways to analyze the effectiveness of your fulfillment center. From cost, the number and location of warehouses available, scalability of order fulfillment, transparency of expenses, and a willingness to communicate when there's a problem to solve—there are plenty of factors that influence the capability and success of a fulfillment team.
But there is one glaring sign that it's time to switch your fulfillment center that rises above all others: customer satisfaction.
In an excerpt from the book Definitive Guide to Order Fulfillment and Customer Service, authors Amydee and Stanley Fawcett call customer satisfaction the "essence of exchange." Your company, they assert, must not only create outstanding value, it must "create the value customers desire and are willing to pay for."
In today's business world, the value people want is fast, accurate delivery.
Why It Matters
It's simple enough to say that customer service matters, but, in our rapidly changing world marketplace, it is more important now than ever.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when competition meant drawing customers away from the store across town. Now, with the availability of Internet shopping, your business is literally competing with hundreds of thousands of other businesses across the globe.
If your customers aren't pleased with the service they get from you, they can quickly find a hundred alternatives with the simple tap of a computer key.
How can you know if your present fulfillment center is dropping the ball in the customer service arena? Here are four signs to be on the watch for:
1. Complaints about lost packages.
Do orders that left the warehouse in a timely fashion simply not show up? If you have customers calling to say that their orders failed to arrive, you have a big problem. Chances are that by the time those customers get frustrated enough to contact you directly, rather than order support, they've already found another, more reliable provider.
2. Damaged merchandise.
Are your products reaching your customers in good working order? Were they packaged in such a way as to survive the rigors of shipping without damage? Damaged merchandise is useless to your customers, and puts an additional burden on your company, as well. It now has to absorb the cost of reshipping the same merchandise to replace what was damaged.
3. Shipping delays.
Has your system regularly recorded orders that have missed their "ship by" date? Is your order fill partner making excuses for those delays?
While shipping delays are a regular part of business— weather, traffic, power outages, and other unforeseen circumstances can all set back a time table—if delays are practically the norm with your shipper, it’s a big red flag.
Modern Internet shoppers have a short attention span. When an order sits in the queue with no action as the "ship by" date ticks by, you can be sure they will find another outlet.
4. Incorrect or partial orders.
Do the packages that do arrive on time contain the wrong merchandise? Are packages meant for one customer being sent to another? Are some of your orders showing up in a timely fashion but with missing components? This is shoddy service and is simply unacceptable.
How a 3PL can help
- Specialization. Many veteran fulfillment providers also offer their own logistics solutions. And a good one will get your orders out to your customers quickly and accurately.
- State of the art IT. A high quality, state-of-the-art computer infrastructure ensures order accuracy. It can also improve your customers experience and protect their sensitive personal information— a growing concern among today's consumers.
- Statistical data. Feedback about what your customers like and what they don't is an invaluable tool when assessing your business goals.
Don't let poor order fulfillment be your company's Achilles' heel. If your customers are complaining about the performance of your fulfillment center, it's time for you to find a more reliable partner ASAP.