Integrity is everything when it comes to business, which is why it’s so important that you choose the right warehouse. After all, they’ll be responsible for all kinds of things, from packing your items to fulfillment of orders. If they let you down, your reputation will be in tatters. Not cool.
For this reason, it’s super important that you carry out your due diligence before outsourcing a 3PL service. And the easiest way to do so is by asking the right questions that will get you the answers you need.
In this article, we’ll be covering the 6 crucial questions to ask your potential warehouse partner.
What Products Do You Specialize In?
This is a key question, because unsuitable 3PL warehouses will try to tell you they take all kinds of products, just to get your business. However, the best warehouses know their strengths and weaknesses, and they will accordingly focus on some products and not others. Specialization is everything these days.
For example, some warehouses specialize in heavy items, which is itself a bit of an art. If a 3PL warehouse tells you they can handle any type of item, there’s a high probability they don’t know how to handle bulky items properly.
Other warehouses, on the other hand, will specialize in lightweight products, while some will specialize in fragile products.
How Do You Adapt When Demand Increases?
Let’s say you partner up with a 3PL service and then your business really takes off. Before you know it, you’ve got double the amount of orders you had when you first signed the contract with the warehouse.
However, it’s not cool when the 3PL can’t keep up with the demand.
If you’re planning to scale your business, ask this question to make sure the warehouse can scale with you. If they can’t, it will be a total disaster.
Bonus question: What happens if my business slows down? Are you flexible with reduced shelf space?
Are You Able To Process Orders On The Same Day?
Amazon has changed the eCommerce game countless times. Remember when they started to offer same-day delivery? Game-changer.
The best 3PL services are those that innovate and keep up with trends. They move in whatever direction the market is moving in.
While it’s certainly not necessary for a warehouse to ship and deliver on the same day as the order came in, it always helps if they can at least process the order on the same day.
You can go a bit deeper with this question, too. For example, some warehouses might promise 2-day shipping but that doesn’t uncover how long it takes them to process the order. If it takes a week, what’s the point?
Do You Handle Customer Service?
Exceptional customer service is what your customers want. Research even shows that customers now prioritize good customer service over product and price when it comes to the brands they shop with.
Outsourcing a part of your customer service to your 3PL service provider might be a good idea because it will take a load off. They can field questions about a customer’s orders so that you don’t have to act as mediator who talks to the customer and then your warehouse – and then your customer again. It’s a drain on your time and resources.
Not just that, but customers will also be able to track their packages in real-time without you having to do it for them.
Of course, not all 3PL’s will offer customer service and it doesn’t need to be a deal breaker. But if a potential warehouse does offer customer service as part of their services? It’s a winner.
Bonus question: What other services do you offer? (for example, does the warehouse offer customization, kitting and box inserts?)
How Secure Is Your Warehouse?
Imagine if a customer places an order with you … but your warehouse had been broken into and the order (and a lot of your inventory) is lost.
Worse still, this happens on more than one occasion. Orders and time is lost, and your customers are left unhappy.
All this can be prevented by outsourcing your inventory to a 3PL service that has good security. This includes security cameras, a secure location, fencing around the building and said employee background checks.
Bonus question: How safe is my data with you?
Do You Have Minimum Monthly Order Volume?
This final question is one of the most crucial of all because you need to know your operations can actually meet the demands of the warehouse. Don’t forget to find out if they’re lenient during certain seasons. If they’re not, and if your monthly order volume fall shorts of their minimum requirements, you could be hit with a charge.
It’s also a good question to ask so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Bonus question: How long is a fulfillment contract?
Make sure you ask all the right questions to any potential warehouse you consider to partner with. It’s also important that you compare and contrast answers from different companies before coming to a balanced, well-informed decision regarding who you should outsource this aspect of your business to.
Will Schneider is the founder of insightQuote, a match-making service for B2B services, and writes informative posts about fulfillment services at FulfillmentCompanies.net. He is passionate about helping businesses find the right solutions to improve their operations. When not working, Will enjoys coaching youth basketball.