9 Ways to Know if Your Fulfillment Partner is Holding You Back

Craig Freeman
Outside of the IDS Fulfillment Center

Are you fed up with your third-party logistics (3PL) provider? Do they constantly disappoint you with late fulfillment, poor communication, and mistakes that cost you time and money? If so, it’s time to face the harsh reality: your 3PL is holding you back.

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many businesses struggle to find a reliable 3PL that meets their needs. It can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, especially when you’re stuck with a provider that doesn’t seem to care about your business.

So, how can you tell if your 3PL, pardon my language, sucks? Here are some of the obvious and not-so-obvious signs to watch out for.


The Obvious Signs:


They’re always late: If your 3PL can’t seem to meet delivery deadlines, it’s a clear sign that they’re not managing their resources effectively. Maybe they’re understaffed, using outdated equipment, or simply don’t care about meeting your needs. Whatever the reason, a 3PL that consistently fails to meet deadlines is a liability for your business.

Communication is non-existent: Good 3PLs should keep you informed about the status of your shipments and any potential delays. If your 3PL is ignoring your calls or emails, it’s a sign that they’re not organized or responsive. And if you can’t get in touch with them when you need to, what’s the point of working with them at all?

They make a ton of mistakes: Mistakes happen, but if your 3PL is consistently messing up orders or shipments, it’s a sign that they’re not paying attention to detail or taking the necessary precautions to ensure accuracy. This not only wastes your time and resources, but it can also lead to lost sales and unhappy customers.

Your products are constantly damaged: If you notice an increase in the number of damaged products, it’s a sign that your 3PL is not handling your goods with care. This not only affects the quality of your products but can also lead to lost sales and unhappy customers.

They have hidden fees: Be wary of 3PLs that charge hidden fees or surprise surcharges. A good 3PL should be transparent about its pricing and fees and not spring unexpected charges on you. If your current provider is constantly trying to sneak in extra fees, it’s a sign that they’re more interested in their bottom line than meeting your needs.


The Not-So-Obvious Signs:


Business Review: Your 3PL should take the time to meet with your leadership to review the previous quarter’s performance to see what worked and what can be improved. Since your 3PL should supplement, if not entirely replace, your distribution and fulfillment services, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Cost savings: Certainly, costs are ever-increasing. However, that does not mean that you just have to sit back and eat them. Your 3PL should be using an individualized approach to your partnership to best serve you. Since there are a wide variety of avenues that can be pursued to explore cost savings, this should be an ongoing conversation.

Forecasting: Does your 3PL not ask for your sales forecast? Then they are asking for failure. A sales forecast is critical for lean operation with your 3PL. Your forecast should tell your 3PL what to look out for, giving them the ability to change and optimize operations. There is no one size fits all approach to fulfillment.

Scalability: Is your 3PL prepared for your product to go viral? Or even for a gradual increase in demand? If you are not entirely confident that your 3PL is going to be able to not only meet but exceed expectations no matter your scale, then dump them. A 3PL should not only be worrying about your current happiness but your future success as well.

So, what can you do if you’re stuck with a 3PL that is holding you back? Here are a few options to consider:

Look for a new provider: If your 3PL is consistently failing to meet your needs, it’s time to start looking for a new provider. Take the time to research different options, read reviews, and ask for references. Don’t settle for a provider that doesn’t meet your expectations – find one that will help your business thrive. If you’re looking for the most responses, check out our guide on how to write an RFP for 3PLs!

Talk to your 3PL about your concerns: If you’re not ready to switch providers yet, you can try talking to your 3PL about your concerns. Let them know what’s not working for you and ask for a plan to improve. If they’re willing to make changes and meet your needs, it might be worth giving them another chance.

If you’re working with a 3PL that is holding you back, it’s time to take action. Don’t waste your time and money on a provider that does not value your time and business.

If you’re looking to skip out on all the guesswork and risk that can come with choosing your fulfillment partner, contact IDS Fulfillment. With over 60+ years in the industry, IDS has experience working with companies of all sizes. Contact us to learn more!

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