Here are some important questions to use as criteria when selecting a fulfilment partner to suit your business.
“How will my account be managed?”
While most fulfilment companies have a customer service team, how you are able to contact them can vary.
Several fulfilment providers have a ticketing system in place, so rather than contacting a team member directly, you have to ‘submit a support ticket’ before your query will be acknowledged.
These systems are always set up with the best of intentions, but sometimes you just want to talk to somebody!
Some of our clients have even reported that their previous fulfilment company imposed limits on how often they’re allowed to contact their customer service team per day. This is very frustrating if you’re a new company with questions about the process, or if you’re trying to get updates on your customer’s behalf.
Having a dedicated contact or two is often the best indicator that your questions are going to be answered in a helpful – and human! – way. When evaluating different fulfilment providers, ask if you will have your own account manager.
At Vdepot, we allocate a team of people to each customer. This means you’ll have one main customer service contact, consistency of goods in & warehouse management, as well as consistency on the technical side of things. We aim to resolve your query within one working day.
Your business will be looked after by a consistent group of people who will become familiar with your products and processes. It’s worth noting that we pay higher than average salaries for our industry, so we get better people in through the door and staff retention is high.
“How do you cope with a spike in orders?”
You want to have peace of mind that your fulfilment partner can maintain service levels through busier periods, so it’s worth asking what measures are in place to cope with varying demand.
At Vdepot for example, we take the following measures to ensure we maintain service levels in very busy times:
- Taking on seasonal staff – we hire and train seasonal staff in September so they have the necessary knowledge and experience to work through the demanding festive season.
- Reviewing team member allocation on a daily basis, as well as order volumes per customer.
- Regular check-ins with our customers to anticipate sales and promotional offers that will require extra capacity.
Being in communication with your fulfilment team before/throughout a busy period or a promotion is an essential part of managing a successful sale. You want to make sure you will have a regular point of contact, or that you can easily get hold of someone from the company, so you can keep them updated on your plans.
“Will your fulfilment software give me the information I need?”
Outsourcing your fulfilment shouldn’t have to mean losing control of your inventory. Most fulfilment providers will tell you that they have a ‘state of the art system’ that keeps their warehouse running, but that means nothing if it’s not workable for you. It needs to be transparent and easy for you to use, without bombarding you with too much data at once.
For example, with the MyVdepot system, you can easily monitor the status of your orders and inventory levels, and specify exactly what other information you want to view each day. This can include:
- Live status of all new orders
- Order numbers by location, channel and SKU
- Cost of sale reports
- Slowest and fastest-moving SKUs
- Which team member picked each order
- Delivery status of all packed orders
- Orders placed and returned by day/week/month
- SKU weights and dimensions
- Storage costs per SKU
- Want something else? Ask us!
You can request this information in a variety of formats.
To many of our clients, we are more than just a fulfilment partner – we actively compile reports and insights for them that help them evaluate their business performance and inform decision making about their products, prices and more.
“What’s your onboarding process?”
Whether you’re looking to outsource your in-house fulfilment, change to a new fulfilment partner, or plan ahead for your start-up business, your new fulfilment company should be able to outline their lead times and process for setting up your new account.
You obviously want as little disruption to your online orders as possible, and for your new fulfilment partner to set clear expectations so you can make the necessary preparations.
At Vdepot, we can get your new fulfilment process up and running in a matter of days from your enquiry. Our average set-up time is 3 working days, but in some cases this can be as little as 1 day.
We include an estimated lead time in our proposal for you, based on your inventory and order volumes.
For companies with thousands of SKUs or who are switching away from a different fulfilment partner, we can offer the option of phased implementation whereby we activate your new fulfilment process for a few SKUs at a time.
After picking, packing and dispatching all our catalogue products ourselves – it was a huge and quite nerve wracking change moving to Vdepot! However, from the start they seemed to grasp what our business was about and what we needed in order to fulfil our orders promptly and efficiently. This was very reassuring!! The move went smoothly and everything has gone great. We receive a lot of positive feedback from customers praising the speed of delivery and care in packing, which is just what we needed. Many thanks!Alexandra, Founder, Clothing Retailer
“What questions do you have for me?”
Did the fulfilment company you spoke to take the time to understand your requirements before sharing their fees?
If the fulfilment house has not asked about what you’re selling; your product characteristics, delivery preferences, whether you have certain requirements for fulfilling orders… that’s a red flag.
The time and processes involved in fulfilling an order can vary hugely from one business to the next. Yet some fulfilment providers are still handing out the same generic price list, whether it’s to sellers of bicycles, gold watches, food hampers, smartphones or sofas!
Fulfilment companies that share standardised prices do so because they know that, for most sellers, that’s their most important question and they want to know prices before starting a conversation. But these sellers run the risk of being lured in with low costs and then having their fees adjusted once they’ve already moved all their stock over and integrated their systems – simply because the fulfilment company didn’t accurately calculate the resource involved before you signed with them.
At Vdepot we prefer to have a chat with you to give you a fair and accurate proposal, so you’re not hit with an unexpected price hike a few weeks down the line.
When evaluating different fulfilment companies, make sure you get satisfactory answers to all these questions. It’s always best to speak to a team member over the phone if you can. To start a conversation with Vdepot, give us a call on +44 (0)1603 881700 or request a call back using the form below.