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A smart businessperson knows their customers do not have to live in the vicinity of their store to be a customer. Many businesspeople realize they do not need a physical store to sell their products. Technology and commerce has made it possible to sell remotely.
Selling to far reaching customers has its advantages, as well as warranted concerns. A main area of concentration focuses on getting your goods to the customer. Fulfillment processes involve cycle tasks such as taking orders, housing goods, and packing and shipping orders. Larger companies usually perform their fulfillment tasks in-house, while smaller to mid-sized companies look to outsource.
Is outsourcing for your fulfillment needs the right decision for your company? Read the following article and consider some main topics.
Number of orders
The growth of your business is akin to your number of orders. For very small businesses, handling the volume of orders may not deter employees from concentrating on other areas of the business, but overtime it may. A major advantage of outsourcing any business process is the time and resources saved. When outside help is utilized, then in-house areas flourish.
Determine whether your number of orders is taking away from other areas of your business. Fulfillment houses can be used completely, partially (to perform some tasks, but not the entire process), or not at all. The key is assessing what will work best for your business.
Your level of experience
On the surface, fulfillment may appear to be a seamless process. This is not the case. Sure, a novice can perform the same tasks as one with experience, but the latter's process will work more smoothly and they are likely to save more money. Why? There are many steps in the fulfillment process and those with experience will better implement and understand what steps to take to make more money, satisfy customers, and save time.
If you do not have representatives in-house with fulfillment experience, and you are not willing to put time in to intricately learn the process, then it is wise to outsource to trained professionals.
What do you sell?
Some products will be more outsource-friendly. For instance, mass produced, small, and nonperishable items are great candidates for fulfillment outsourcing. However, other items in need of personalized attention are better suitable for in-house fulfillment.
Some of your items may be more suitable for outsourcing than others. Cogitate on your options and inventory before making a final decision.
All companies are not created equally. Depending on your products and services, your customers may have different behaviors. For instance, if you sell costumes, you will see a significant spike in sales during the month of October, which would warrant more manpower regarding fulfillment.
Study your sales history and look for peaks and valleys in sales. Could your company benefit from outsourcing during one of your peaks? Would you save money by conducting some fulfillment duties in-house during your slow moments?
Outsourcing fulfillment does not have to be an all or nothing process. Utilize outside resources depending on what is right for your company at the right times.
Taking care of the customer
The prominence of your business is contingent on the satisfaction of the customers. Customer service should be a primary concern in regards to your fulfillment process. Whether you decide to take advantage of a fulfillment vendor or conduct your duties in-house, pay close attention to the following:
- Customers want to track their orders from making the order until it arrives at their location.
- Customers want to know their order has been accepted, thus beginning the fulfillment process.
- Customers want to know how long the fulfillment process will take.
- Customers like having options. This can be in regards to special shipping, wrapping, delayed delivery, etc.
- Customers will not always be satisfied with their orders. Return options must be present and easily relayed to the consumer.
- Are items in stock? Is there an option to place a delayed order? Do not disappoint customers by keeping them in the dark or misinforming them.
Finding the right fulfillment house
Once you have decided that fulfillment outsourcing is the right strategy for your company, how do you find the right fulfillment house? Consider the following:
- Evaluate if the fulfillment house is large enough and has the amassed experience to perform well for your business. Talk with several representatives from the fulfillment house to get a better idea of how their daily operations work. Also, ask for references so you can speak with present and past clients of the fulfillment house.
- It is common for manufacturers to issue rebate checks to consumers. Consumers do not always take advantage of such things, yet these aggregated funds should be returned to the manufacturer. If you let the fulfillment house keep them, then your order entry calculations will not be correct and will increase the number of un-cashed checks.
- Mailing and delivery issues may occur with particular products. Weight errors, damaged merchandise, and returned orders are just a few issues that arise. Be mindful of the weight, shape, and fragility of the products you are supplying.
- Unfortunate instances such as recalls may occur. Make sure you have a protocol set in place with your fulfillment partner in the event such a time takes place. You would not want to attract bad press or have the image of your brand tarnished because you were not prepared.
- An onsite visit may not be immediately possible, but it is encouraged. Until you see things firsthand, you cannot really make an accurate image of how your account is being handled by your fulfillment vendor.
- A great majority of your customers most likely have never heard of a fulfillment service. That means every process they handle is assumed to be addressed by your company. In essence, the fulfillment service is a reflection upon you. You will want to know how they handle customer service inquiries and complaints. Remember, your partnership with a fulfillment vendor is supposed to be beneficial to your company.
A fulfillment service can do wonders for your business. It is a great advantage to know the areas in which to examine their services more closely before making your final decision. Outsourcing gives you the opportunity of options. Get quotes from multiple vendors and choose the one that will best suit your company.
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