What should you expect from your fulfillment service provider? The short answer is, it depends on what you are asking your fulfilment service provider to get done. Nowadays, fulfillment services are sophisticated enough to do much more than simply store, pick and pack products. But if that is all you require them to do—then your expectations should be quantified. However, if you are planning to use your fulfillment services as a trusted part of your operation, one that is essential to customer service and contributes to your bottom line—then you can and should expect a lot more.
What Exactly Does Fulfillment Service Entail?
The general description of a fulfillment service is the storing, managing, and distribution of products for a single client or multiple clients. Getting into the details of each of these steps will provide a better understanding of what you can possibly expect from your fulfillment service provider.
What’s important to keep in mind with any fulfillment service is that it is customer centric. That means that however well it performs has a direct and immediate impact on the customer. For instance, if a product is shipped late, or the wrong product is shipped out, the customer will immediately feel the impact. Depending on the nature of the product and just how time-sensitive the shipment of the product is to the customer, a late or incorrect shipment could impact many of your customer’s clients as a result.
Keep in mind that the successful distribution of a product happens well before the product is shipped. A system of receiving inventory, managing that inventory once it has been received, and then shipping the products needs to be in place in order to ensure there are no missteps.
Technology and Hand Fulfillment
Great fulfillment service companies use a combination of updated technology that includes a team of experienced individuals who understand the tedious nature of this industry. This is a fact that APS Fulfillment, Inc. recognizes and incorporates into its daily operations through what is known as hand fulfillment. The size of the actual job is irrelevant.
Despite being fully up-to-date with e-commerce, and the technologies that stem from customers ordering through an online shopping cart—following through on the rest of the system to ensure a secure fulfillment service will take some human intervention. This will ensure that all items are first stored properly and then delivered to their proper destination, in the correct packaging and with the correct literature.
APS also offers real time inventory management, cut sheet digital printing, postal logistics and mail tracking services, plus many additional services that offer you a safe and secure fulfillment service. We are able to work with you every step of the way. We are efficient, organized, and most importantly we pay attention to every detail—so your customers are happy with the products you create and we deliver.
Kitting is the act of combining different products together into a single pre-packaged SKU. The best way to understand this process is to imagine yourself as a clothing retailer. You sell shirts and pants individually, but you also offer outfit packages that combine both for a lower price. To enhance the fulfillment process and be more efficient, you would create “kits” of shirts and pants that get packaged together as a single SKU. Depending on what kinds of products you sell, kitting may not be applicable to your type of business. If it is, be sure to ask if your fulfillment service provider offers it.
Pick-and-pack is a key part of order fulfillment and, quite frankly, if your fulfillment services provider isn’t offering pick-and-pack then you should take your business elsewhere. At its core, pick-and-pack is when products are “picked” from the shelves of their respective warehouse locations and then “packed” together or assembled. Assembly in this context can refer to the literal assembly of a product or to the act of bundling different items together in a single package. The pick-and-pack step is also when special packaging considerations are made, such as applying bubble wrap or packing products in pallets.
Once an order is picked and packed, the next step is to actually get it to the customer. Not all fulfillment services will provide shipping directly. However, those that don’t can be expected to arrange shipments through another carrier like UPS or FedEx. If this is the case, then you can and should expect to receive preferred rates on your packages. This is because your fulfillment services provider will be able to leverage the combined volume of its clients in order to negotiate better rates and fees.
As the name says, order tracking enables you or your customers to keep an eye on an order or shipment’s status. Order tracking usually takes the form of some sort of code that can be entered onto an online platform that can provide the progress and location of a product. These platforms are not necessarily in real-time but should ideally be accurate to within a few hours at minimum. Order tracking is extremely useful from a customer service perspective since it lets people view how their purchase is traveling and reduces the uncertainty associated with internet purchases.
Real-Time Inventory Management
When running a fulfillment service of any type, staying abreast of inventory status is essential. You want to be able to look at a screen and know what the status of your shipments is, your existing stock levels, and to be able to trust that the information you are getting is accurate. Real-time inventory management software is a cutting-edge service that some fulfillment service providers can offer in order to make this goal a reality. Through real-time systems, you or your customer can track an order from the moment it is placed to the moment it arrives. In addition to this order tracking feature, real-time inventory management lets you stay abreast of current demands so you can balance inbound and outbound stock levels for maximum efficiency.
So what can you expect from your order fulfillment service? Well if you’re working with APS Fulfillment, you can expect peace of mind knowing that you’re working with the best. Contact us today for more details on how we can handle your order fulfillment service.