If you’re new to using outsourced fulfillment services, you might hesitate to turn over complete control of your fulfillment operation without some guaranteed supervision. Some eCommerce sellers choose to place a fulfillment representative on-site at the fulfillment center to keep a dedicated line of communication open and ensure that the third party logistics provider (3PL) performs as expected. But is it worth it?
The decision to use an on-site representative is mainly situational and will depend on the relationship between the two parties. This blog will explore the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining a presence at your 3PL’s fulfillment center.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an On-Site Fulfillment Representative
There’s more than one way to outsource fulfillment, and an eCommerce shipper may choose to place an agent on-site for various reasons. For example, the representative may manage special assignments or act as the company’s point person in all interactions with the 3PL. Whatever the reason, the presence of a representative from the retailer has some advantages and disadvantages.
- Maintaining a high engagement level. Having the customer represented on site provides opportunities for the eCommerce seller to offer real-time feedback regarding day-to-day operations. In return, the 3PL gains access to a single point-of-contact for the customer with a fulfillment representative who can immediately answer any potential questions the provider may have about products, branding, packaging, and other various concerns.
- Addressing supply/manufacturing issues quickly. The on-site representative should have a high level of familiarity with the various products fulfilled by the 3PL and the various suppliers and manufacturers involved in creating them. This knowledge allows the retailer to react more quickly when something goes wrong with product quality, decreasing the chance that defective goods might reach the end customer.
- Better operational visibility. An on-site rep gains a first-hand look at all aspects of the outsourced fulfillment services. This capability helps the brand quickly identify trends regarding damaged products, sales, returns, and more.
Despite these benefits, an on-site representative is not ideal for every fulfillment outsourcing situation. Here are some disadvantages of keeping an agent on-site after you’ve outsourced fulfillment services:
- Higher costs. The salary and compensation package for your on-site fulfillment representative will come as an added expense outside of whatever financial agreement you’ve made with your 3PL. For eCommerce sellers operating within narrow profit margins, the added cost of an employee at your provider’s location may not be worth the benefits it produces.
- Difficult relationship building. While the on-site agent might establish a good rapport with the outsourced fulfillment services provider, senior executives at the retailer and 3PL may have little reason to interact. This makes it more challenging to build a good fulfillment outsourcing relationship that lasts.
- Unclear accountability. In many situations, the eCommerce seller’s representative performs a role similar to an operations manager. As a result, if something goes wrong with fulfillment, it may become difficult for the retail customer to determine if the problem stems from the 3PL or its own agent.
- Not leveraging the 3PL’s full capabilities. Your fulfillment 3PL should have responsibilities built into its rates that overlap with the responsibilities of an on-site representative. Placing an agent at the fulfillment center may create unnecessary redundancies, resulting in wasteful spending on behalf of both parties.
Developing Trust with Your Outsourced Fulfillment Services Provider
The decision to place a representative at a 3PL fulfillment center may come down to the level of trust involved in the partnership. Some online sellers choose not to outsource eCommerce order fulfillment to maintain complete control over operations, and that’s okay. However, for those on the fence, placing a temporary agent on-site may be an option to ensure you’re satisfied with the level of service your 3PL provides.
Selecting a fulfillment 3PL that is transparent and communicative will usually eliminate the need to keep your own people at the site. Suppose the 3PL offers dedicated customer service representatives and open access to its executive leadership? In that case, it’s unlikely you would benefit enough from an on-site agent to justify the cost.
At Amware Fulfillment, we balance the number of accounts each of our customer service representatives handle to ensure that all of our customers can get the answers they need when they need them. While we are more than willing to let you place an agent at any of our fulfillment centers, we strive to provide our services in such a way that you won’t need to. For questions about our outsourced fulfillment services, please feel free to reach out to us.