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Choosing a fulfilment partner is a big decision. You will be trusting them with one of the most important touch points with your customer – the moment they actually receive their order.

Nobody goes into a partnership with a 3PL provider wanting to leave them some time later. But, sometimes promises aren’t delivered, the service isn’t what you expected or your business needs change outside of what they can offer.

The good news is that switching your 3PL provider can solve many of the issues you are currently facing. You just need to know when the time is right.

So, if your 3PL provider is making any of these mistakes, you might benefit from making the change…

6 signs it’s time to change 3PL provider…

1. They don’t communicate with you

If your fulfilment provider just won’t pick up the phone or reply to your emails, you are going to struggle in building a relationship with them.

As the year 2020 proved, external factors beyond anyone’s control can have a huge impact on not only your eCommerce fulfilment process, but your entire business. So, it’s essential that you can trust them to be there when you need them most.

Does your 3PL respond immediately to any issues or queries you have? Do they address your concerns and act on them as soon as possible? Remember, you are a customer too, so you should be getting the support and service you need.

2. Your orders keep going wrong

The main purpose of working with a third party logistics provider is to get your orders efficiently from your warehouse to your customers without any snags. If your 3PL can’t even do this, then you could have serious issues to address.

When orders go missing, are delayed or the wrong items are packed, it’s not your 3PL who your customers will get annoyed with – it’s you.

Yes, it’s your reputation that is on the line when your 3PL messes up. So, if they are repeatedly letting mistakes happen, they could be losing you customers for life. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to switch providers.

3. They don’t come to you with improvements

It could be that your 3PL company has no problem with the basics. They tick the boxes, get orders through the door and consider the job done.

But, they should be offering more than this. The world of eCommerce is always advancing, so your 3PL should be too.

A good fulfilment partner should identify areas where you could improve your process. They should have their finger on the pulse of new developments, working on new facilities and thinking ahead to the future.

If they don’t, what is ‘good enough’ now might lead to failure in the year ahead.

Have regular conversations with your 3PL about where you hope to be in a year’s time and ask how they can help you get there. If they don’t know, a new 3PL might be the best solution.

4. They can’t keep up with your rate of growth – or, they are holding you back from growing your business

One of the huge advantages of using a third party logistics provider is the potential they offer for you to grow your eCommerce business. As they improve your fulfilment process and help you process more orders, you can start to scale up in a sustainable way.

But, this can only happen if your 3PL is equipped to do so. Even if they have been hugely helpful in getting you to this point, it might be that they just don’t have the stock storage space for you anymore.

Or, it might be that you are expanding across more online platforms. Maybe you are moving to a global supply chain. Or perhaps you are working on offering multiple international delivery options. If your 3PL can no longer scale up with you, it might be time to find a new one.

5. Their technology just isn’t cutting it

Technology is a huge part of the fulfilment process. From tracking the status of orders to managing your inventory, your 3PL partner should integrate seamlessly with your eCommerce platform.

Don’t settle for manual operations when they could be automated – find a 3PL partner who has the technology to take you to the next level. Your job shouldn’t be to process orders on spreadsheets; you’ve got more valuable things too! Not to mention the errors that can occur when data isn’t properly streamlined.

If your 3PL is spending a lot of time on a task that could be automated, this could also be adding to your costs. Saving time means saving money, too.

6. It’s not worth your time or money

We’ve already touched on the cost of a 3PL company in our last point. It’s important to remember that a cheaper fee doesn’t necessarily mean you will save more money in the long term.

For a start, some fulfilment providers might seem cheap initially, until hidden costs start appearing. This isn’t a good sign – a good partner will be transparent and upfront with you about what they charge from the outset.

Then, there comes the idea of what value they add to your business. It may be that you find a 3PL that is more expensive than your current 3PL, but that cost could be worth it. If in exchange you receive outstanding customer service, the latest technology and insights, flexible storage space and expert advice on improving your fulfilment process, it could be a worthwhile investment.

If, however, you pay less for a 3PL who loses your orders, doesn’t communicate with you and hasn’t prepared for the future, it could be money down the drain.

How do you switch 3PL provider?

When the time comes to switch to a new 3PL provider, it can be daunting!

However, your new partner should work closely with you to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.

You will, however, need to consider the following…

Ending your current contract

If you have tried everything with your existing 3PL and it’s time to end the relationship, keep your contract in mind. Even if the end date isn’t for some time yet, you can still start researching or even planning with your new partner.

The more time you have to plan and put into action a transition process, the easier it will be. Talk to them about your requirements, expectations and improvements you want to make to ensure you are happy with your future fulfilment partnership.

Moving your inventory

Once the gears are in motion for your move, it will be time to transfer your inventory across to your new fulfilment centre. This is where things can get messy if the process isn’t handled properly.

The move isn’t going to happen in one day. There will be a transition period during which your new stock will be delivered to your new location, while you continue to fulfil orders from your old warehouse.

New integrations

Along with your physical inventory, you will also need to integrate your new inventory management system with your eCommerce platform. Technology can get confusing to those who aren’t too sure about it. So, a good 3PL partner will have the support on hand to guide you through this process.

Communicating with customers

Sometimes even the best laid plans can suffer unexpected set-backs.

So, it’s often a good idea to let customers know in advance. Position this as positive news for them – your business is growing, so you are making some big changes to benefit them too! Customers like transparency, so let them know before they place their order if next-day delivery is suspended.

P.S, if you are thinking about switching your 3PL provider, contact 3PL today for a chat about how we can help your eCommerce business grow

You might also like these guides from our blog

How Do I Choose the Right Fulfilment Partner?

5 Ways to Improve Your Order Fulfilment Process

What Are The Key Factors For a Successful eCommerce Order Fulfilment Process?

Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is Marketing Manager at 3PL. He researches and writes everything you need to know about eCommerce fulfilment and logistics.