Picking, packing, and shipping an order seems like it should be a very simple process. After all, at least from a high level perspective, all it involves is getting the right products from the fulfillment center to the correct customer, on-time and undamaged. Seems straightforward, right? Then why does it seem too frequent that either you hear of a mis-shipment horror story or experience one yourself?
The truth is that there are so many things that can go wrong when a fulfillment center ships an order – leaving numerous opportunities for mishaps and disappointments. We thought it would be helpful to explore the potential pitfalls in the order fulfillment process so that you, the business owner, would not only be aware of the areas to consider when selecting an outsourced fulfillment provider but also better manage mis-shipments when they do rear their ugly heads.
Transmitting the Order
The first point of potential failure during fulfillment is when a customer places an order with incorrect information, such as the wrong number or type of items. Even when the customer notices the mistake in time and makes an important change, the fulfillment center may not receive updated information on the order.
In a worst-case scenario, the fulfillment company loses the order. Either it never receives the order (through human error or a technical malfunction) or the order goes missing and fails to be processed. This is why you will want to work with a fulfillment center that has a proven track record of accuracy and efficiency, as well as tested systems for integrating order transmission.
Picking the Order
In the fulfillment center, employees may be distracted or may not consistently follow industry best practices, leading them to pull wrong items (the item is incorrect, is in the wrong color or size or comes from the wrong manufacturer, and so on). They may pack the wrong number of items, forcing you to make up the loss in a second shipment while attempting to sooth the customer’s anger.
Problems like these tend to arise in fulfillment centers run by inexperienced managers that do not perform quality checks or centers that do not have a robust scanning process in place to catch picking errors. Errors are compounded when the fulfillment center lacks sufficient technology to assist in the picking process.
Shipping the Order
Once items are packed up and ready to go, more problems can crop up when the fulfillment center fails to meet various logistical requirements. For example, an employee might choose the wrong level of shipping service and select ground transportation instead of express shipping. Workers may have the wrong ship-to address, which means that the package will be essentially considered lost if the recipient doesn’t return it. Automated systems for selecting the correct shipping method can assist in mitigating this risk, but oftentimes fulfillment companies use disjointed technologies that don’t speak fluently with shipping systems.
You will lose money and see your reputation damaged each time a fulfillment center sends orders to the wrong customer or lacks sufficient information to ship to APO or international addresses.
Furthermore, problems can strike when shipping carriers fail to deliver the product on time or to the correct address. For example, the major small package shipping carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and USPS aren’t perfect – they will fail to deliver timely packages a certain percentage of time. Not only is it important that the fulfillment company work closely with the shipping carriers, but it’s also important to understand and service level guarantees and corresponding credits that might be relevant for failing to deliver on shipping promises.
Choosing the Right Company is Imperative
With so many potential pitfalls that can cause your orders to be mis-shipped, it’s important for your organization to find a fulfillment company that has the right processes in place along with sufficient technology and a properly trained team to address your particular shipping needs. Your long-term success depends largely on how well you can meet customer demand on a reliable and consistent basis.