Your 3PL Fulfillment Partner: 5 Qualities to Consider
Selecting a 3PL fulfillment partner is no small task. It takes a lot of preparation to define your requirements, extensive research to draw up your shortlist, and many months after that to confirm there's a good fit and agree terms. Even after all that hard work, there are things you can miss and some relationships simply don't work out, meaning it's time to start again.
In terms of long-term growth, finding a true partner for your fulfillment business, rather than just another service provider, is key.
The five qualities shared below are traits that we believe are core to a successful relationship with your selection for third-party logistics service. As a committed 3PL fulfillment partner to our clients, existing and new, we also include five companion videos to show how Capacity approaches and exemplifies these qualities.
5 Qualities of a True 3PL Fulfillment Partner
While size and price are undeniably important aspects of any decision to engage a 3PL, there are many other areas that matter. Not every quality is as clearly visible as a rate sheet or number of facilities, but those intangible attributes often highlight the difference between a standard service provider and a true partner for your business.
A deep and healthy partnership makes for a more responsive, flexible fulfillment operation. This is a partner that understands your needs and adapts as your brand grows. A shallow relationship of convenience might work for a short time, but can quickly turn into an expensive mistake when it fails to scale with your business.
With the importance of those intangible aspects of service in mind, here are five qualities that tend to define a true 3PL fulfillment partner:
- A desire to learn about your business.
- Passionate people who listen and respond.
- Carefully customized fulfillment solutions.
- Technology that makes you more efficient.
- The commitment to be an extension of your brand.
Let's take a look at each of these qualities and why they matter for your business.
Desire to Learn
How do you quantify the value of a partner who is keen to learn about your brand values, goals, and what matters most to your customers? The old adage about listening more than you speak is something that a genuine 3PL partner will apply, especially in the early days of your engagement. Wanting to learn about your business is a powerful sign that a 3PL company should make your shortlist.
This is where customization begins: by taking time to hear what you want to achieve, sharing ideas for your specific situation, and explaining how the right type of fulfillment setup will help you get there.
Every company sells a commitment to its employees, so it's easy to see how a good team is table stakes in your search for a 3PL fulfillment partner. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find just how important it is to distinguish between simply acknowledging people and actually developing their passion.
Although this quality is often best assessed when it comes time for site visits, don't overlook the value of a positive first interaction with contacts at any level, from a 3PL's service experts and engineering team to the people answering the phones. Passionate people will respond more quickly, be knowledgeable about their business, and be willing to search for solutions to your fulfillment challenges when others will not.
Order fulfillment is rarely straightforward. Even brands with relatively small SKU counts and simple pack outs need to deliver an order experience that stands out from the crowd. That needs to happen reliably in order to build trust and enhance brand reputation, while any gaps need to be identified and quickly resolved. A bespoke solution from a 3PL fulfillment partner that understands your business is what makes this a reality.
Look for a commitment to data analysis, running fulfillment simulations, explaining ship method optimization, and a team of engineers with the ability to come up with creative solutions to your challenges, as well as the right client team and technology to action that plan.
Technology isn't the key to unlocking fulfillment success - skip back two sections if you're wondering what is! - but having the right tech on hand is undeniably a force multiplier when you find a suitable 3PL fulfillment partner. Whether it's automation in the form of AI robotics from a partner like Covariant or behind-the-scenes software powering eCommerce and EDI integrations, having effective technology in hand accentuates the qualities of a good 3PL. It helps your 3PL team to serve you more effectively and makes your order fulfillment more efficient.
An Extension of Your Brand
In the end, everything above comes down to delivering what your customers want. For that, a 3PL fulfillment partner needs to be an extension of your brand, from the 30,000 ft view of your core values and unique business proposition, all the way down to the detail of how your product should appear and why your customers are excited to receive it. Secure a 3PL that knows - and cares - that every touch they have on your product is one that impacts your customer and that partner is likely to become a valuable extension of your brand.
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Or if you're facing urgent challenges right now and want to find out if Capacity could be the 3PL fulfillment partner for your business, contact us today.