It happens to the best of us. You do extensive research, you carefully gather requirements and evaluation criteria from across your organization, you read all the individual reviews you can possibly find, and still — you end up with a 3PL partner who drops the ball on your fulfillment needs when it matters the most. Despite all your due diligence, you’re stuck with a fulfillment partner who doesn’t share your vision or your urgency, and problems begin to crop up left and right. They’re slow to respond and you feel like you don’t have the insights you want and the control you need. Suddenly, no one is happy, not your customers, and certainly not you.
It happens to the best of us — but it doesn’t have to happen again.
If any of these frustrating and avoidable stories sound familiar, you may be a retailer who needs to learn how to spot the warning signs that a particular 3PL partner isn’t the right fit for your business. You can do so much to improve your customer satisfaction, enhance your fulfillment services, and grow revenue if you get savvy about the 3PL red flags to watch for that indicate massive problems down the line. Problems related to archaic technology, poor communication, surprise fees, and (say it ain’t so) a lot more.
If you want your business to succeed and scale faster (and who wouldn’t) it’s time to make a change. You need true partnership, and that begins with deepening your understanding of what you don’t need in a 3PL resource.
Warning Signs That Your 3PL Partner Isn’t The Right Fit
Selecting the right 3PL partner is a critical decision for retailers seeking efficient and reliable fulfillment services. You’ve already worked tirelessly to establish a strong, credible business; don’t let these totally avoidable stressors and strains from an inadequate partner stand in the way of your success.
- Keeping Up with Fluctuating Order Volume
When a 3PL provider can’t keep up with your order volume, it has cascading effects throughout the entire supply chain and negatively impacts your operations, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance. A 3PL’s inability to handle fluctuating order volume may result in delays in processing and shipping orders. This leads to customer dissatisfaction, especially if promised delivery times are not met. Delayed or incomplete order fulfillment can quickly harm your relationship with customers, and unhappy customers often express their dissatisfaction through negative reviews and are likely to choose to shop with competitors in the future. This all amounts to lost sales (any retailer’s worst nightmare). Your 3PL’s inability to scale with order volume may force you to limit their promotional activities or sales campaigns. This results in missed opportunities for increased revenue and market share, and to make matters worse, solutions like ponying up for expedited shipping or outsourcing to additional providers result in higher operating costs.In fast-paced and competitive markets, you need to be agile and responsive to customer demands. If a 3PL partner cannot keep up with order volume, it puts you at a disadvantage compared to competitors with more reliable fulfillment processes. Choosing a 3PL partner that can effectively adapt to fluctuating order volumes is crucial for long-term success in today’s dynamic business environment.
- Antiquated Technology That Keeps You From Optimizing
The absence of appropriate technology solutions (or new technology that’s too hard to actually use) from a 3PL results in operational inefficiencies, increased costs, and a diminished ability to meet customer expectations. It is crucial that you partner with a 3PL provider that offers modern and adaptable technology solutions to ensure the success and competitiveness of their fulfillment operations.
When a 3PL provider fails to offer the necessary and usable technology solutions to help you augment your fulfillment operations, it leads to several challenges and shortcomings that negatively impact your efficiency and competitiveness. Technology plays a crucial role in streamlining and automating various aspects of your fulfillment operations. Without adequate technology solutions, processes may remain manual, leading to inefficiencies, errors, and increased labor costs. Customers expect real-time updates on their orders, from purchase to delivery. If the 3PL lacks the necessary technology to provide this information, your customers will quickly sense that the experience you’re offering doesn’t meet their standards. Automated systems reduce the likelihood of human errors in data entry, order processing, and inventory management. If your 3PL hasn’t bothered to innovate and simplify what they can offer you, guess what? You’ll continue to be rendered incapable of innovating your own business and keeping pace with your competitors.
Remember: Technology evolves rapidly, and businesses that do not invest in updated solutions risk becoming obsolete. But why stop there? Why not seek out a partner whose technology can also integrate with your system? Seamless integration between your systems and the 3PL’s operations is crucial for a cohesive and efficient supply chain. When integration may be limited or non-existent, resulting in data silos and communication gaps that keep you constantly playing catch up. If you’re engaging with a vendor who seems to be stitching together several different platforms to help give you the control over your inventory, orders, and shipping that you need—that’s a red flag. Find a partner who can meet you on day one with a fully realized suite of modern technology-driven solutions. Modern technology enables real-time visibility into inventory levels, order statuses, and shipment tracking—all the things you need to level up your fulfillment.
- Neverending Surprise Fees
We’re all customers at the end of the day. We value clarity and forthright and authentic communication, and we never find ourselves surprised by some inexplicable and frustrating fee. Surprise fees can have several negative implications for your operations and the overall financial well-being of your business.
You already know what surprise fees are, and right now you’re probably feeling a little triggered thinking back to the last time you were made to pay one. But it’s wise to consider the end-to-end effect of a seemingly simple (albeit upsetting) extra charge, such as:
You rely on accurate cost projections and budgets to plan your operations. Surprise fees can make it difficult for you to accurately forecast expenses, leading to budgeting challenges and potential financial setbacks.
Impact on Profit Margins:
Surprise fees directly affect your profit margins. If profit margins are already thin, unexpected charges can significantly reduce the profitability of individual transactions or the overall business.
Trust and Credibility Issues:
Surprise fees can erode trust between you and your 3PL. The lack of transparency in pricing may lead you to question the 3PL’s honesty and reliability, potentially damaging the long-term business relationship.
Unforeseen Cost Increases:
Retailers plan their pricing strategies and business models based on the costs they expect to incur. Surprise fees can result in unforeseen cost increases that you may struggle to absorb without passing them on to customers, potentially affecting competitiveness.
Sudden financial pressures from surprise fees can disrupt your day-to-day operations. It may force the business to redirect resources and attention away from growth initiatives or critical operational tasks.
Limited Cost Control:
You can’t plan for what you don’t know. Surprise fees reduce your ability to control costs effectively. This lack of control can hinder strategic decision-making and the ability to allocate resources optimally.
Need we say more? Not on the subject of how you deserve better from your 3PL partner than to constantly be slapped with unexpected charges. Identify a partner that is consistently and unilaterally straight forward about their pricing model and walk (or run) away from any resource that obscures what they’re charging you, placing it all under the header of “administrative fees”.
- Incorrect Inventory Data
Is there a more harrowing word in fulfillment than “backorder”? Incorrect inventory data may lead to discrepancies between the available stock reported by the 3PL vendor and the actual inventory levels. This often results in the inability to fulfill customer orders accurately and on time, and you know your customers won’t stand for that. What’s worse is that you may incur additional costs to address fulfillment errors caused by incorrect inventory data. Expedited shipping, returns processing, and customer support efforts can contribute to higher operational expenses.
You rely on accurate inventory data for effective demand planning and forecasting. Inaccuracies can lead to suboptimal inventory levels, affecting your ability to meet customer demand and capitalize on market trends. To mitigate these negative impacts, it’s crucial that you choose 3PL vendors with robust inventory management systems, implement regular reconciliation processes, and establish clear communication channels to address and rectify any discrepancies promptly. It’s crucial that you simply select a more capable and dynamic fulfillment partner.
- Inadequate Support When You’re The Most In Need
Perhaps the biggest and most crimson of all the red flags is simply feeling like your 3PL partner isn’t there to help you when it matters most. Unfortunately, so many 3PL vendors offer you incredible client service right up until the moment you sign on the dotted line. Then crisis strikes and you don’t have a dedicated point of contact to help address your needs or challenges. The lack of support from a 3PL when challenges arise in fulfillment completely undermines the overall success of your business. Proactive and responsive support is crucial for addressing issues promptly, minimizing the impact on operations, and maintaining a positive and productive relationship between you and your 3PL. And a lack thereof is a red flag we know you would never accept.
Without timely support, you’ll face operational disruptions that can lead to delays, errors, and increased operational costs. Let’s imagine something has gone horribly wrong with your inventory or deliveries. Unresolved fulfillment challenges can lead to customer attrition, as dissatisfied customers may choose to shop with competitors who offer a more reliable and seamless experience. What’s more, poor fulfillment performance can harm your brand’s reputation. Word-of-mouth, negative reviews, and social media complaints can spread quickly, impacting how consumers perceive you. This inability to address fulfillment challenges in a timely manner will force you to limit sales or promotional activities, leading to missed opportunities for revenue growth.
Timely and effective support is crucial for efficient problem resolution. Without it, you may struggle to identify and address the root causes of fulfillment challenges, leading to recurring issues. Support is essential for scalability. Without assistance in overcoming challenges associated with increased order volume or business growth, you may find it difficult to scale your operations effectively. In this day and age, that simply isn’t acceptable, and you should filter through your options for fulfillment providers with this in mind.
- A Lack of A Future-Focused Vision
Have you ever been in conversation with someone who has settled for the status quo? That immediate sense that you don’t share the same values can color the conversation and leave you feeling misunderstood and mismatched. Don’t ignore that feeling when it comes to your 3PL provider.
Instead, consider a provider that checks every box you’ve ever had. Pick a provider that wants to push fulfillment services to great new heights in service of their own business and yours. A shared vision promotes flexibility and adaptability in the face of changes or challenges. If both you and your 3PL provider are aligned on your future goals, it becomes easier to adjust strategies and operations to meet evolving market conditions. As your business grows, scalability becomes a critical factor. A 3PL provider that shares your vision will be more inclined to invest in the infrastructure and resources needed to scale operations in line with your expansion plans. A forward-looking 3PL provider is more likely to invest in and adopt innovative technologies that align with your vision for the future. This could include advancements in warehouse automation, real-time tracking systems, and data analytics, enhancing overall efficiency and competitiveness. Stanvast prides itself on the way we’re upgrading the industry and hitting all of these notes thoughtfully and strategically.
Selecting a 3PL provider that shares your vision for the future is not just about meeting current needs but also building a strategic partnership that can adapt and grow in tandem with your business. A 3PL provider like Standvast is aligned with your vision and is more likely to be proactive in identifying and solving problems. This proactive approach prevents potential issues before they impact your operations or customer satisfaction and gets you several steps closer to your goals for your brand.
Meet Your Flag-Free New Partner
A strong 3PL partner not only meets but exceeds your expectations by prioritizing customer support, maintaining transparent pricing practices, leveraging advanced and integrated technology, and demonstrating a continuous commitment to innovation. This holistic approach contributes to a successful and mutually beneficial partnership between the 3PL provider and your business, and that’s exactly the kind of relationship we insist on creating with our clients.
Our modern and simple-to-use technology systems are essential for efficient logistics operations. A good 3PL invests in advanced software for inventory management, order processing, and real-time tracking. We believe that excellent customer support is essential for addressing issues promptly and maintaining open communication and that it’s our duty to provide responsive and dedicated support to handle inquiries, resolve problems, and address any concerns. We embrace innovation and are committed to continuous improvement. This includes adopting new technologies, optimizing processes, and staying current with industry best practices. In other words, this includes everything you’re looking for in a partner and everything you deserve.