Handling the fulfillment responsibilities yourself may seem like a good, cost-saving idea when you’re just starting out. But as demand for your products grows, so too will your fulfillment backlog. Unless you stay on top of it, your sales will suffer along with your company’s reputation for quality and responsiveness.
This may be a good time to consider using an outside order shipping and fulfillment service to take the burden off of your shoulders. Outsourcing fulfillment can save you time. Your products, labels and other unique packaging can be stored in the fulfillment company’s facilities. When orders are placed, the fulfillment firm packs and ships the items and perhaps handles customer service and returns as well. Orders can come through you via your usual methods, or can go direct to the service.
Plus, a good shipping and fulfillment service will have the latest tools and technology for efficiently packing, shipping, and tracking orders. By letting them handle this responsibility, you can devote more time to managing and growing your business.
There are many different ways to approach shipping and fulfillment solutions based on the type, weight, size and destination of the items you ship, along with your customers’ needs and expectations. Outside fulfillment involves a cost, but you should also consider the costs you are avoiding such as storage space, payroll and your own time. If you charge customers for shipping and handling, you may be able to recover all or a portion of it.
When selecting an order fulfillment firm, be sure to align your needs with the services they offer. Ask about minimum and maximum order quantities, error rates and restrictions on the types of products they will ship. Some, for example, only ship via UPS and the Postal Service and don’t handle oversize items. If you have special packaging, ask if they will use it.
A great source of information is the Mailing and Fulfillment Service Association, a national trade association for the mailing and fulfillment services industry. Their website (www.mfsanet.org) offers tips for evaluating, selecting, and working with a fulfillment service, postal and legislative information, and a search feature for locating a locating a company that’s right for you.
To learn more about shipping and fulfillment at your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call 610-327-2673 for the Pottstown SCORE chapter, or find a counselor online at www.pottstownscore.org.