Sometimes, it’s best to focus on what your business is great at rather than trying to do everything yourself. For many businesses, that means working with a third-party shipping partner to handle fulfillment.
But, this isn’t a decision should be made lightly.
Choosing the right shipping partner is a much bigger deal than, say, an 8th grader choosing who they’re taking to the dance on Friday. And they probably still spent a few weeks making that decision.
So, how do you determine if you’re getting the most value from your shipping partner? It’s as simple as determining if they’re the right partner for you. Obviously everyone’s needs are different, but there are a number of criteria that all businesses can evaluate to see if a 3PL company is right for them.
Can They Meet Your Basic Needs?
This is the most obvious, but still a critical step. You might find a company that you absolutely love and want to work with, but if they can’t provide the services you need, then you can’t really run with them.
Can they ship your specific type of product?
Different materials have different needs. Are they equipped to handle yours?
Do they cover your area?
If you ship across the U.S. and they only cover the Midwest, that won’t work. If you go international, and they don’t, that will also be a problem.
Can they meet your deadlines? Can they handle your volume? Can they operate within your established systems?
The list goes on. The best way to start is to figure out all of your most basic needs, the absolute musts, and work from there.
Do They Match Your Values?
A shipping partner is more than just ‘the company that ships things for you’. They are an extension of your business, a representation of who you are. It’s important to determine whether or not their company’s values line up with your own.
Different companies place value in different areas, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For example, Little Caesar’s Pizza thrives on the fact that they offer $5 pizzas that are always ‘hot and ready’ to go. If speed is the most important factor, make sure your shipping partner is incredibly fast.
On the other hand, if your emphasis is quality and customer experience, you’ll want a shipping partner that feels the same. That doesn’t mean they won’t be fast and efficient. It just means they put more effort into areas often neglected by others, providing the best possible shipping experience.
So, when you’re looking for a shipping partner, simply ask this: What do you value most?
Can They Grow With You?
Are you a fast growing company? Do you expect your shipping needs to be greater and to reach further in the near future? If so, then you need to plan with this. No one wants to partner up with a company, only to leave them a year or two from now.
Are They Effective at Communicating?
In case you didn’t know, communication is key when it comes to logistics. From the warehouse to the trucks to the customer and everything in between, shipments are made on time to the right place because of communication.
Because of this, communication between you and your shipping partner is incredibly important. If your early correspondence with them seems spotty at best, this could very well be a sign of things to come. Make sure they listen when you talk. Make sure they’re reachable when you need them.
Taking the First Step
Ultimately, you won’t know if a shipping company is right for you until you reach out to them. If you are ready to take that initial step, we’d love to hear what you’re looking for!