Questions to ask a potential 3PL vendor

Over the past six months, I’ve been transitioning the fulfillment processes at my e-commerce business to a third-party logistics (3PL) vendor.

I didn’t know anything about 3PLs before starting this process, so there were a lot of things I didn’t know to ask about. Here are the list of questions that I recommend e-commerce merchants ask a 3PL if they’re considering working with them for fulfillment.

Customer profile ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • Do you have other clients whose order volumes are similar to mine?
    • What’s the minimum and maximum order volume you can support?
  • Do you have other clients whose products are similar to mine in price?
  • Do you have other clients whose products are similar to mine in weight and volume?

Integration with e-commerce platforms ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • What’s the process of connecting to my e-commerce platform?
  • How quickly does your order management system sync with my e-commerce platform?
    • i.e., when you print a shipping label, how quickly do I see that reflected in Shopify?
  • How do I present your shipping rates to my customers?
    • Can I present real-time shipping rates from your couriers or do we need to use flat shipping fees?

Recordkeeping / auditing ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • How often do you do stocktakes?
  • How will you share records of inventory changes with me?
    • i.e., When did products arrive at your warehouse? When did they go out for customer orders? When did stocktakes happen?

Schedule ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • Which days of the week do you fulfill orders?
  • What holidays do you observe?
  • What’s the typical turnaround time for fulfilling an order?

Shipping ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • Which shipping couriers and services do you support for domestic orders?
  • Which shipping couriers and services do you support for international orders?
  • What’s the cutoff for same-day shipping?

Payment ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • What are your fees?
  • How do you accept payment?
    • Do you charge a surcharge for different payment options (e.g., surcharge for credit cards)?

Handling issues and unusual orders ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • What’s your error rate?
    • i.e., how often do customers receive the wrong item or wrong quantities?
  • Who absorbs costs of a fulfillment error?
    • What if we have to re-ship with expedited shipping to meet a customer deadline?
    • What if you sent a more expensive item and the customer has already opened it or refuses to return it?
  • How do we handle it if a customer places an order and then emails me to make a change?
    • Will changes in my e-commerce platform immediately sync to your order management system?
  • How do we handle it when a customer asks us to hold off on fulfilling an order?
    • What’s the process of pausing fulfillment on an order?
    • Will your order management system recognize Shopify’s “pause fulfillment” feature?