If you control your fulfillment, you have the ability to be responsive to customer needs, to ship quickly, and make sure everything is right the first time.
Evansville, Indiana (PRWEB) November 18, 2013
While third-party fulfillment services offer many things that are attractive to small and growing businesses, Standzout found the major downsides of allowing a third party control over the largest physical interaction that online businesses have with their customers - shipping.
Their painful and problem-riddled experience with one well-known fulfillment company may act as a warning to other small business owners who may be considering using a third-party fulfillment company to warehouse and distribute their products.
By 2012, Standzout was an established company with a product that its customers loved and reputation for great customer service. After being approached by a company offering to handle fulfillment of Standzout's tablet accessories, and touting an impressive list of services, Brandon Barnard, CEO of Standzout, made the decision to move the company’s fulfillment to a third-party.
“What they offered was everything a growing startup needed,” says Barnard, “Storage; shipping; a great web portal to manage everything; interfaces with shopping carts, Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces; and multi-continent warehouses to bring our products closer to our customers.”
Barnard thought that the partnership would be a key to Standzout’s success as a growing business. However, after what should have been a turnkey start became 6 weeks of "technical difficulties" and persistent problems that continued until the start of the holiday shopping season, Barnard and Standzout began to question their investment.
Barnard says, “It turned out that our standard Free Shipping service was not compatible between the shopping cart platform and the fulfillment company. We felt that we were stuck in the middle between two service providers, which is not a good place to be. With enough emails, phone calls and relentless persistence, the problem was eventually resolved. We soon found out it was only the first of many problems to come.”
Among the problems Standzout experienced were:
- There was no direct communication with carriers about shipments, since the fulfillment company is the shipper.
- Last-minute order changes were impossible to manage as the order makes its way through the system. Once the order is placed, there is a period of time in which changes can be made, but once it hands off to the warehouse, changes are not allowed.
- Customization, special notes, or gift wrapping were prohibitively expensive or impossible.
- Product never shipped same-day.
- Product condition was not recorded on shipping, so there was no verifiable evidence of damage when shipped.
- Having warehouses in multiple locations requires greater attention to the tax laws of different areas and countries, leading to added expense and time spent keeping records.
- Occasionally, customers would be shipped the wrong item or the wrong quantity of items. The lost time and product in these situations was not found, returned, or compensated.
Because of these issues, Barnard made the difficult to decision to bring the product back to Standzout headquarters and handle order fulfillment in-house, a move which necessitated serious restructuring of the organization.
“What it comes down to is control,” says Barnard. “If you control your fulfillment, you have the ability to be responsive to customer needs, to ship quickly, and make sure everything is right the first time.”
Small business owners have to make the difficult decision between creating the infrastructure to handle orders in house or allow control over customer satisfaction to be in the hands of a third party. When it comes to customer service, Barnard states, taking care of things in-house is the way to go.
The move to insourcing fulfillment is no easy task, however. Standzout had to bring on new staff to handle the operations and logistics of shipping in-house, as well as lease new space to warehouse the increase in stocked product. In Standzout’s eyes, the benefits are worth the trouble.
“With the move now complete, we are able to service our customers the way that they should be serviced,” Barnard says. “We aren't control freaks, but there are things we aren't willing to let others handle when it comes to customer satisfaction.”
Standzout, formally a business of Aspire Innovation LLC, is the creator of the Standzfree Tablet Floor Stand, Surmount Tablet Clamping Mount, and Wallmate Tablet Wall Mount. Doing business from Evansville, Indiana, Standzout’s goal is to create accessories that allow people to get the most out of their mobile devices.