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Steps To Establishing Service
Steps To Establishing Fulfillment Service
While every clients needs are different the steps to begin with a fulfillment provider are relatively the same. Not all steps are needed, but it is encouraged that you review as much as you can prior to making a decision.
1. Assess Your Needs
Before you can request a proposal it is best to understand exactly what your needs are. What do you hope to achieve by outsourcing your order fulfillment? Do you want a provider that is close to your location, close to your vendors or close to your clients? Do you have a requirement of speed or accuracy? Do you need customer service? How hands on do you want to be? Do you need a company that can provide reporting capabilities? Will your shopping cart transmit data to a third party? All of these questions will form the basis of any fulfillment providers proposal.
2. Request A Proposal
We strongly suggest that you call several fulfillment providers to request a proposal. It’s important to hear the tone and inflection of the fulfillment companies representative as you lay out your needs and goals. The provider should ask questions such as: How many orders per month, number of items per order, number of SKU’s, amount of warehouse space needed, will there be returns and several other factors that will impact the proposal. They should be able to make suggestions and discuss your needs in depth. They should also be able to provide a detailed proposal that outlines your specific needs. Once you receive the proposal make sure to compare it to other proposals that you have received as well as the needs you outlined in step 1.
3. Software Demo
It is always recommended that you request a walkthrough of the software that the fulfillment company will provide even if you do not plan on using it. There will be times when you may want to access it or perhaps you will use it often. The software is your visibility into the warehouse and fulfillment process. It is also a very good indication as to the sophistication of the fulfillment provider, however be careful not to be overly impressed with graphs and charts. The software should be a workhorse and not cosmetic in nature.
4. Request A Service Agreement
Prior to making a final decision it is important to understand the terms and conditions of any contract or service agreement. Questions to ask: Is there a long term commitment? What are payment terms? Is there a service guarantee and if so is it defined in specifics? What happens if I want to end service?
5. Have Technical Staff Speak
Your technical staff (or whomever is handling the system integration) should speak with the fulfillment companies technical staff to work out data transmission. The fulfillment provider should be able to supply API and integration documents. In addition, you should ask if there are other ways to transmit orders should your shopping cart have a data flow interruption. Methods such as manual entry or batch processing through spreadsheets should be presented as an option should an unforeseen technical problem happens on your side.
6. Sign The Service Agreement
Selecting your fulfillment provider will in nearly every case will require the execution of a service agreement or contract. The fulfillment provider should provide a counter signed agreement.
7. Complete The Integration & Send Inventory
The fulfillment partner should provide files that will need to be completed. This is an important time as setting up your fulfillment program requires a high level of detail. It is important to remember, the more information that you provide the better the program will be and the greater satisfaction you and your clients will have. You should expect to have a conference call with an Implementation Manager. This person is responsible for communicating your specific needs to the warehouse. You will also meet an Account Manager at this time. This will be your day to day contact.
Data transmission and order entry should be tested. You should receive a more detailed walk through of the software and a review of your objectives.
9. Go Live
The day has finally come where you are ready to go live. Inventory has been received and the warehouse is ready to begin fulfillment your orders. You now have a single point of contact.
While the steps above are the most common, every provider will have different steps. The time between step one and step nine can be as little as a few days.
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