If you are considering partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to help you manage and grow your business, you may be wondering how to find one that will actually improve your efficiencies. There are certain characteristics of 3PL providers that are key markers of competence, regardless of the size of your business. We’ve sourced the top ten most important features of a successful fulfillment center that you should look for when choosing the right 3PL to manage your logistics.
A 3PL provider should have a robust network of resources to help manage your logistics operations. An efficient fulfillment center allows companies to scale and grow—an established 3PL will have the experience to manage this growth successfully without bothering you with extra worry about the minute details of warehouse or supply chain management. A 3PL that can help your business scale will leave you more time to focus on sales, marketing, and acquiring new customers.
“The fact that we can scale with DCL is really important to us.”
To have great customer service, you need to earn customer trust. You need to guarantee that a purchase from your business will result in quality items being sent to customers accurately and timely. By working with a 3PL with an efficient fulfillment center, you can be assured that your customers will have their expectations managed and items delivered promptly. A 3PL who can also provide a professional customer service team with quick and concise communication to your customers will help establish your brand as trustworthy.
“You should have someone who can help if you’re customers need to return their product. The warehouse and 3PL you work with will be a big part of your customer support and customer service relationship too.”
Your business will struggle if your customers are dissatisfied with your service. To make happy customers you need to deliver on your word. For example, if your inventory count on your online store says there are 100 items in stock, you need to ensure that those items are available as stated. Or, if your customers want faster shipping, you will benefit from partnering with a 3PL provider to shorten your shipping time to same-day or next-day shipping. If your customers are happy with your service, they’ll be more likely to become repeat customers and recommend you to others.
One of the best features of hiring a 3PL is personalization for your specific products. No company wants a one-size-fits all box. If you have delicate, sensitive, or intricate products that need special packaging, a 3PL can help by offering customized materials or specialized packing procedures.
Many of today’s 3PL providers are equipped with modern technology which makes it easier for businesses to optimize their supply chain. IT solutions like robotics, business intelligence, error reduction, automation, and real-time inventory tracking are core benefits when working with these service providers. It’s important that your 3PL provider has the kind of tools you need. If you anticipate a lot of returns, make sure your 3PL has robust capabilities for tracking RMA.
“DCL had more modern tools and more of a growth-based, forward-looking business model than some other 3PLs we visited. It was clear that they are a company who is constantly improving, and looking for the next way they can grow their business, and that’s what we want in a partner.”
The first step to gaining 1M customers is by getting one. And the only way to ensure that each of your customers are satisfied with your business is to focus on them as individuals. 3PL providers can do this from the point of initial customer contact to delivering an amazing unboxing experience. This ability to focus on the details that make the experience for every customer special is what will lead to long-term big growth.
One of the biggest advantages when you partner with a 3PL provider is that you can monitor deliveries in real-time. You can see where inventory is moving in and out of your warehouse and when it arrives in stock, or at your customer’s door. Tracking allows you to follow the progress of your orders to ensure that everything goes according to plan. It also allows you to provide accurate information to your customers to improve your service and reputation.
Most 3PLs off all of their clients free or affordable value-added services. Common ones include kitting and assembly services, quality control, product software updates, and technology add-ons like EDI connections. You may only require a few basic services to manage your operations, but these extra features can come in handy should your sales growth need to scale.
Complications are inevitable in the logistics industry which is why it is a good idea to partner with a 3PL provider who can absorb those and make immediate corrections. An experienced 3PL can help you handle errors in any part of your supply chain, and mitigate them quickly and effectively. They will likely provide forecasting so you can actively prevent the same issues from reoccurring. The right 3PL for you will act as your partner and an extension of your brand to help you best resolve any problems.
Look for a 3PL provider that is transparent about their fees and charges. They should be able to explain to you exactly what you will get if they are offering a package of services. And above all make sure they are providing services that you actually need. A good 3PL provider will be clear, prompt, and honest when they communicate with you—whether that’s daily updates, or annual rate increases. There should be no surprises, because only then will you have true peace of mind that your supply chain is in good hands.
Whether you have hit the ground running as a startup business, or have been struggling to stay afloat for a while, you may be wondering if a 3PL provider can help you overcome your challenges. It’s intimidating as you consider a 3PL to trust your business operations to. Take your time and ask the right questions. Finding the right 3PL for you will aid in the best long-term growth and scaling.
If you are interested in working with an experienced 3PL, send us a note to connect about how we can help your company grow. You can read DCL’s list of services to learn more, or check out the many companies we work with to ensure great logistics support