Your supply chain is the very lifeblood of your company. Your success as a business depends on it as nothing has a more direct impact on customer satisfaction than the success or failure of your supply chain.
You can have the best products in the world, but if they don't get to your customers in a timely fashion, your business will die. When packages don't arrive on time, customers get frustrated. Frustrated customers might cancel orders, or simply find another outlet.
But, as the old saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
So many things can disrupt your order fulfillment chain. Bad weather. Power outages. Trucking strikes. Even the rush of holiday traffic. Just when everything seems to be running smoothly, unexpected issues and delays arise. When they do, you need flexible supply chain solutions that can ride the waves, not a static, one-size-fits-all model that will sink in the raging storm.
Choosing the right order-fulfillment partner
If you want your business to thrive, you must ask yourself whether your fulfillment team is ready to handle the inevitable bumps on the distribution road. Here are the three hallmarks of an agile fulfillment and distribution partner. Be sure that you choose a partner that has all three.
- Responsiveness: Responsiveness means two things. First, it means responding to the day-to-day needs of both your business and your customers. It means filling orders quickly and accurately. It means handling returns and problems gracefully. It means providing those services in a professional way that reflects well on your business. But, responsiveness also means being responsive to your needs.
If you have questions or concerns, you want to have a fulfillment partner that is there for you. You need to be able to contact them reliably. You should be able to bounce ideas off of them and work out solutions to your problems as a team. If problem solving means making changes to your inventory, products and services, or even the way you interface with clients, you need a fulfillment team who is ready, willing, and able to work with you as you make those changes.
- Scalable fulfillment: Not all unexpected events are negative. Sometimes you will see a surge in orders. While this is great for business, it can stress your supply chain. Is your fulfillment and distribution partner ready to handle these upswings in business? Conversely, are they willing to accommodate downswings, as well? Can you weather a period of decreased orders without penalties? You need a distribution partner that has the flexibility to easily scale up or down as your order volume changes.
- The ability to accommodate your evolving business: Today, your company may be comfortably prosperous. Your fulfillment partner may, at present, be meeting all of your needs. Business success, however, is all about looking to the future.
Shipping your products efficiently and in a timely manner may be your top priority at the moment, but those priorities are likely change as your business grows and evolves. You need a fulfillment partner who stands ready to meet your company's changing needs. Does your partner offer the tools and services you will need in the future? Do they have inventory tracking, for example, and high-tech business solutions? Do they offer online customer support and data collation? You may even decide to outsource assembly, warehousing or packaging in the future. Are these essential services offered by your current supply chain partner?
While you may not need all of these tools today, they are likely to become an essential part of your business model tomorrow. You need a fulfillment team that stands ready to meet that future need.
Responsiveness. Flexibility. Innovation. These are the keys to successful order management when things go wrong. When considering your fulfillment and distribution needs, keep your eye on these essential qualities.