Where third party logistics service providers fit in your sales chain
From dealing with suppliers and stock takes to updating your website and keeping customers happy, what happens for logistics service providers once a customer places an order?
As an e-commerce business, you are accountable for many responsibilities; in this blog we go through a typical e-commerce process and highlight where third party logistics service providers can step in.
Order comes in
A customer will order a product on your website, via the phone or through other means. Once ordered and if in stock, an email confirmation should be sent to the customer; confirming what they have ordered and the timeframe they have to change this. If this is the last of a product, ensure that the website reflects this and an approximate time to when the new stock may be available.
For the business, they then need to put aside the stock as sold. In most instances, at the same time the customer is getting a confirmation, communication to your warehouse is also happening. This information includes all the key details required to ensure that the item is secure for the customer in question.
Pick and Packing
In most instances, the pick and packer use a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to track down each order in the warehouse. As a third-party provider, we designate areas for each of our clients to ensure that it’s done as efficiently as possible.
For smaller enterprises, this could simply mean going into another room in their office. Picking the product themselves and preparing it to send out.
Once picked it is time for packing. For businesses that have a warehouse, or use a 3pl provider, staff will then pack the orders per the customer’s delivery request. The benefit of using a 3pl service is that they will have a variety of packaging options at their disposal, which can save businesses time, space and money.
Ready for dispatch
Once packed and ready to ship, the customer will receive an email to let them know their parcel is on its way.
For the warehouse or business, this means ensuring that they have contacted their chosen logistics service providers and arranged the pick-up of the order, or, set aside time to post their customers items out.
At this point, the customer should be sent an email or SMS to alert them that they product is on route. Most businesses offer free tracking so that the customer can get real-time data on where their product is.
Whether the customer’s request express or standard delivery, it’s the logistics service providers job to ensure that everything’s met accordingly. 3PL’s can offer a broad range of transportation options for the businesses that they work with and their customers. Often, the third party logistic service provider has partnerships in places that secures discounts for the businesses that they work with.
Some retailers have their own logistic services. The warehouse will comply with their wishes and provide all necessary information to deliver the order seamlessly.
For those that do it alone, they will have to ensure that they fulfil this themselves, as well as meet the customers’ expectations when it comes to communication.
If the customer is there to receive the delivery, then happy days. But what if they are not? What if the item requires a signature? What if the item is lost or damaged?
As a retailer, you should prepare for all scenarios. You should know who is responsible for which element, so if a question arises, the customer can get an answer as quickly as possible. Ensure that the order form includes a ‘where to leave it’ section for customers who may have to nip out during the day. By tracking the parcels with an estimated delivery time, you can reduce the aggro of rearranging deliveries and unhappy customers quite quickly. If a delivery needs rearranging, make the process as simple as possible.
Returns processing is possible
If a customer is unhappy with the product, they’ll want the option to send it back to the warehouse. Make sure that this process is as easy as possible for the customers if you want then to come back to you in the future.
Handling returns is part of the order processing function, and a happy customer is essential to a successful business.
Whether you are handling returns or complaints yourself, make sure that you log it and listen to the customer. If an item is constantly coming back due to bad fit or poor quality, change it.
Another benefit of a 3pl provider is that they can be your customer services department. They can deal with most issues on your behalf. This doesn’t only save retailers time; it also improves the chances of a resolution to any issue.
So, where does a third-party logistics service provider fit into your process? Is it from the moment the order is made, right through to offering customer service? Or just to manage your inventory and pick and pack for you? Either way, a 3pl provider can become a crucial partner to any business.