Successful companies often scale faster than their owners intend them to. When this occurs, business owners - not wanting to pass up on golden opportunities - are forced to outsource tasks that are best done by other people. This is the core assumption under which Fulfillrite operates. We help busy business owners ship their items so they don't have to. We're happy to help you do the same!

Let's be very direct with each other, though. Decisions made under tight constraints are often bad ones. It's very easy to go wrong by outsourcing a critical need to a company that simply isn't up to the task. When you're running an eCommerce store or a crowdfunding campaign, you may find yourself in desperate need of a good fulfillment company. It's easy to reach out to whoever happens to be there.

There are a lot of good fulfillment companies out there. Fulfillrite certainly considers itself one. However, there are a ton of bad ones, too. It's really easy to lose control of your business when a bad fulfillment company takes over a crucial function of your business.

So how can you avoid that happening? As it turns out, there are a few red flags that will help you know what you're getting into. Look out for them and it might just save your business!

1. Bad Reviews

It may seem obvious, but bad reviews are the biggest, easiest-to-spot red flag of a bad fulfillment company. Look around on TrustPilot, Google, and Shopify before you make any serious attempt to reach out to a fulfillment company.

Don't get too caught up in the number of stars alone, though. Read individual reviews and see what went wrong. Stay away from places that don't have a whole lot of reviews as well. It's remarkable just how much a simple Google search for company reviews can prevent massive problems in the long run.

2. Delayed Shipments

Fulfillment has to be fast. A full 63 percent of customers expect three-day shipping. Having a fulfillment company that drags its feet on such an essential business function can really hamstring your long-term profitability. This much is plainly clear.

What's not as immediately clear is that delayed shipments indicate much bigger problems. It could be the result of understaffing, inefficient processes, or even growing too quickly. Regardless, it is completely unacceptable to wait more than a couple of days to ship an order.

Read into your prospective fulfillment company's service agreement. Make sure they're promising quick shipment. Ensure that reviews online mention quick, timely shipments. If things go wrong, hold their feet to the fire on their shipping times. This is so important!

3. Lack of Communication

For better or worse, people feel a sense of anxiety when they order online. They want to know where their package is, be it through consistent email communication or through tracking numbers. As true as this is for $25 Amazon orders, it is infinitely more true for freight shipments containing pallets of your precious money-making cargo.

You will probably have questions for your chosen fulfillment company. Make sure they respond quickly to your inquiries. If they’re not able to quickly answer your questions during the intake process, that is a massive red flag of problems to come.

4. Long-Term Contracts

A long time ago, fulfillment used to be very difficult. Indeed, a lot of companies used long-term contracts in order to ensure they had a steady supply of funds to keep their businesses going. In 2019, though, there is no need for this anti-competitive practice. If the fulfillment company feels the need to lock you in with a contract, there is a reason for that. Long-term contracts are a bright crimson red flag.

5. Nickel and Diming

The pricing model for fulfillment is complicated. There is no way to reduce a good deal of the complexity because, honestly, prices are set by postage. Postage is set by carriers such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and various national post offices. They, in turn, set their rates based on the size and weight of the packages to be sent. It's really, really hard to pin down a specific quote for fulfillment services because of this.

This confusion creates opportunities for bad actors to exploit customers, though. If you see a receipt full of fees you don't understand, that's a problem. Fees should be straightforward: account maintenance fees, postage, supplies, and labor. If you order value-added services such as labels, kitting, pick-and-pack, and so on, each one should be clearly understandable.

Your bill will inevitably have multiple line items, but if there are ones you routinely don't understand, then that is a bad sign.

6. Bad Software

Coordinating fulfillment is an extremely technology-driven process. As such, you will want to be able to monitor your inventory in real-time. You want to have access to tracking numbers and see where specific shipments are. Ideally, you want a great mobile app for all this as well.

If a company gives you bad, overly complicated software, that’s a big problem. Your interactions with the fulfillment company you choose will largely be driven by their software. If you hate their software, you will come to hate the company as well.

7. No Returns

Last but not least, a fulfillment company should accept return shipments. Period, point blank.

It's okay if your chosen company charges extra for returns. It is, after all, extra labor and resources. However, refusing to accept returns is completely unacceptable. Returns are simply far too common for online businesses to be ignored. You have to have a simple, repeatable business process in place for returns and your fulfillment company must support it.

Final Thoughts

A little bit of research goes a long way. In a world so rich with competing fulfillment companies, you never have to compromise as long as you do your homework.

Don't let red flags and horror stories scare you away from outsourcing fulfillment. A fantastic fulfillment company can free up time, save money, and generally make your life so much easier. Fulfillrite is happy to help you if you feel your business is scaling too quickly for you to keep up!

About the author

Brandon Rollins is a Marketing Consultant at Fulfillrite. His main areas of expertise are online marketing and supply chain management. He also runs Pangea Marketing Agency and Pangea Games.