“Switching fulfillment companies can be such a pain,” says Red Stag Fulfillment Sales Executive Chris Mortl. But, he adds, in many cases, “the juice is worth the squeeze.”
If your eCommerce fulfillment is hurting rather than helping your business, that’s a massive drain on your operations. We spoke with Mortl and another RSF Sales Executive, Cole Sweetser, to get insight on how businesses can ease the pain of switching fulfillment companies and open the door to better order fulfillment.
How to decide when and if to move to a new 3PL
Switching fulfillment companies is an investment of time and money. You’ll need to allocate staff time to searching for the most suitable fulfillment partner and providing your new 3PL with the information it needs to add you to its warehouse management system. It takes planning to redirect your supply chain to send stock to different warehouses and change your internal processes to sync with a new partner. In some cases, you might have the expense of shipping stock from your former 3PL to your new warehouses.
But, if you aren’t getting the quality of fulfillment services that your business needs, your current 3PL is probably costing you money. Inventory shrinkage adds to your cost of goods sold, and mis-picked or mis-packed orders lead to returns and unhappy customers.
So, if you’re unhappy with your current 3PL, the question isn’t whether to switch but when. And, while it will take some effort, the process doesn’t have to be painful. Here are some steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition, plus what a 3PL like Red Stag Fulfillment does to help new clients get off to a good start.
What you can do to make switching fulfillment companies easier
Once you are set up with your new fulfillment company and everything is working efficiently, you can step away and leave your logistics to the professionals. During the transition, you can help the process along by following these suggestions.
Get clear on your pain points
“The number one task for a company is to find out what’s working, what isn’t working, and really understand the true necessity that isn’t being met right now,” Sweetser says. “That is going to be extremely valuable information when you come to a company like Red Stag.”
Sweetser notes that many companies mention price as a pain point, but cost is often a symptom rather than the real problem. Some of the common issues that Sweetser and Mortl see include:
- Fulfillment is expensive because the company uses a 3PL that doesn’t want to deal with its product. Switching to a fulfillment company specializing in handling products like yours can lead to significant cost savings and service improvements.
- The fulfillment company takes too long to respond and doesn’t provide good customer service.
- The client feels like a number and that their 3PL isn’t giving their business the attention it needs and deserves.
- The quality of service doesn’t meet the standards the client needs.
- The integration and tech isn’t working, and orders aren’t flowing to the warehouses.
- The 3PL doesn’t have the shipping capabilities the client wants. That could include not being able to ship with the client’s preferred carrier, lack of carrier flexibility, or not getting shipping discounts.
- The fulfillment company doesn’t offer services the client needs, such as kitting.
Clarity on what’s gone wrong with your fulfillment is vital. “The more up front you are with us about your needs, specific and in detail, the faster we can help,” Mortl says.
Plan your timeline for switching fulfillment companies
You can take it slow or make a switch in just a few weeks. “It really would just depend on how egregious the errors with your current 3PL are,” Mortl says. “If there are massive errors, that creates a bigger hole in your business, where it’s worth the capital to make a bulk shipment out of that warehouse.” When the problems are less dramatic, you can plan a more extended transition with some overlap between your old and new providers.
“Be respectful of your business, and be respectful of your product. This is a big step,” Sweetser says. “Don’t move so quickly that you end up with a bigger problem than you already have.”
It’s essential to make a plan and understand the optimal time to execute all the actions needed to switch fulfillment companies. “We’re going to work on your timeframe, but we’re also going to check every single box before we handle your product,” Sweetser says. If you give yourself enough time to get fully set up before starting up with the new warehouse, he adds, “By the time your product does arrive, you can unplug.”
Communicate your plans with your new 3PL
“We can work on just about any timeframe,” Sweetser says, as long as the client communicates clearly in advance.
Let your new fulfillment company know when to expect your stock so it can schedule dock time for you. If you have any time pressures, such as a big sales event in the near future, tell your 3PL so you can create a plan together.
Never stop asking questions
“You really need to verify that you’re making a good move,” Sweetser says. So, “ask more questions than you ever thought you needed to.” He notes that you should also talk with your 3PL about where you expect your business to go in the future.
Red Stag Fulfillment has created a fulfillment company questionnaire to get you started with a list of questions when you’re getting to know a new 3PL. But don’t stop there; keep asking questions throughout the onboarding process.
Don’t neglect the boring details
After you’ve chosen the right 3PL partner and a service agreement is in place, there are some less than thrilling tasks to accomplish like loading all your SKUs and product details into a new WMS. However, those tasks are essential to complete when you’re switching fulfillment companies. Create an advance shipping notice before each truckload or container arrives so “when we receive your product, we can start pulling it off the truck,” Mortl says. “From there, you’re set up for success.”
Talk with your fulfillment provider about any special needs
Mortl notes that onboarding will be easier if you provide information about major operational exceptions, special needs, or custom integrations early in the process. It may take some time to set up a complex API integration; if you get started early, that won’t hold up the rest of the process.
How Red Stag Fulfillments makes it easier for you to switch
Red Stag Fulfillment understands that switching fulfillment companies is a big project. So we do everything we can to make the move easier.
We form a partnership with every client, right from the start
Red Stag Fulfillment’s sales team asks prospective clients a lot of questions. Mortl calls that “upfront free customer service.” He adds, “When clients reach out to us, a lot of them are very appreciative of the support we give them immediately.”
RSF sees its relationships with clients as partnerships rather than a vendor and customer. The Red Stag team invests in your business beginning with the very first conversation to get that partnership started.
“You came to us because you don’t want to do fulfillment,” Sweetser says. “We make it easy to switch because we’re going to learn everything we possibly can about your business, and we’re going to do the hard part of taking everything you need in a fulfillment company and matching it to your business.”
RSF has a dedicated onboarding team
Red Stag Fulfillment has something that most 3PLs don’t: a dedicated onboarding team that does nothing but help new clients get set up for success.
“They are very proactive,” Mortl says of the onboarding team. “Having that dedicated specialist is that second layer on top of that solid foundation. It’s a massive value for clients because they’re not paying for onboarding man hours when they come to Red Stag, where they may at another 3PL.”
Communication can break down during onboarding in large logistics operations like Amazon FBA or fulfillment companies that operate through a network of subcontracted warehouses. Not at Red Stag Fulfillment.
“The onboarding team will work with you for the first 90 days,” Sweetser says. “We’re going to be very, very hands-on for those first 90 days.”
New clients continue with onboarding until their fulfillment is up and running smoothly. Then you transition to a long-term, dedicated Red Stag account manager, and that’s the person you will call if you have any questions or problems after onboarding.
We offer a risk-free trial so that you can test our service
You don’t have to leap into a new warehouse without trying it out first. “Send us one pallet. We’ll test it,” Sweetser says.
While one pallet won’t give you the full RSF fulfillment experience, you’ll get a taste of the kind of service you can expect when you switch. And you don’t pay fulfillment fees during your free trial.
There are no setup or startup fees or contracts when you switch to Red Stag Fulfillment
One of the things that makes switching fulfillment companies scary is getting locked in. No matter how thoroughly you research your new 3PL, you can’t truly know how well you work together until you start working together.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we try to make this as painless as possible. We don’t charge any setup or startup fees. And we don’t lock our clients into long-term contracts. We believe we should win your business every month with excellent service.
You get Red Stag’s famous fulfillment guarantees
If we don’t meet our service agreements for any of these, we pay you $50:
- Two days for receiving inbound shipments dock to stock
- If we mis-pick or mis-pack, we correct the error
- Same-day shipping
We also guarantee zero shrinkage — we pay the wholesale cost of any items lost or damaged in our warehouses.
Next steps to decide if it’s time for you to move to better fulfillment
If your fulfillment isn’t helping your business, it’s probably hurting it. When you switch fulfillment companies, “there’s going to be a great payoff on the back end,” Mortl says. “Red Stag guides clients through an evolving eCommerce environment. Our team is just so well-versed that it just ends up yielding a better result.”
Of course, Red Stag Fulfillment isn’t the right fit for every eCommerce business. We work with companies of all types and products. And if you call us, you’ll end the conversation with either a plan on how we can help or a referral to a 3PL best-suited to your needs. Our goal is to help every company find their best 3PL partner.
“There is zero harm in calling Red Stag. We’re not going to push you,” Sweetser says. “We turn away a lot of people because they’re not the right fit, but you’re going to leave that call with some really helpful information about what to do next.” Sweetser says some people call him regularly for advice, even though they’re not Red Stag Fulfillment clients. And that’s just fine with him.
When you’re ready to make the switch to industry-leading fulfillment, give Red Stag a call.
More about switching fulfillment companies:
- Tips for Faster Onboarding When You Switch Fulfillment Companies
- 16 Questions To Ask Your Next 3PL Provider
- The Complete Guide to Onboarding with a New Logistics Company