The fun of the holiday season always has an undercurrent of underlying panic about scheduling. It is a hectic time for everyone. This is particularly true for those businesses that rely on e-Commerce. Making use of a professional and dependable order fulfilment company can help to alleviate the stress. Planning and having the right contacts are a good start. Ideally, you should be able to seamlessly serve your customers without overloading your staff. We have identified five key approaches that you can rely on to make this season easier to manage.
Have the right staff numbers at the order fulfillment center
Staffing levels can be tricky without adequate personnel planning and management. The rush starts around spring and reappears towards the Christmas season. Ensure that you have lined up the inventory levels that you are likely to need. This is often based on an estimate that relies on past purchasing patterns. Make sure that your supplies are working well and that the production chain is not going to be disrupted by the holiday season. Moreover, the promotions you have in mind should be configured so that they land at the right time.
One solution is to add more staff who can work on temporary agreements while the hectic seasons are ongoing. If the data coming out shows decreasing demand, then you have the flexibility of letting the temporary staff go. However, if the demand remains high, these temporary team members can ensure that you can meet your commitments. Work with the team at your order fulfilment centre to ensure that they are prepared for the onslaught of customers demanding their cargo to be delivered on time and in decent shape.
The last few years have shown the cyclical nature of sales, particularly for those businesses that are primarily operating online. However, it is important not to stock up too much on inventory to the extent that there is a surplus that you must offload in the new year.
Preparing your fulfillment partner for any space requirements
It is advisable to prime your fulfilment partner for the hectic season. This will be based on your experiences and prior knowledge of how the market responds at this time of the year. Sharing your insights with them will go a long way in improving their preparedness. Provide your fulfilment partner with information about your weekly sales patterns, especially towards the end of November when some companies show order volumes as high as 3x (or more) their typical sales.
The middle of December is particularly challenging because that is when shopping is at its climax. Think about whether the season is going to come earlier or later. Space is at a premium during this season, and you must ensure that your goods are given priority whenever possible. Calculate the dates of the delivery and share them with your fulfilment partners. Remember that many businesses are piling on the inventory in the fourth quarter of the year and this makes space a highly valued operational asset. Ask for a dock-to-stock time guarantee to ensure that you are always prioritized.
Ensure accuracy in order fulfillment
This is the time of the year when many mistakes are made. Inventory accuracy is of the essence. For example, the wrong translation of metric and imperial measurement might mean that space is wasted. Besides, it should be relatively easy to identify and track inventory so that you can meet customer needs in the shortest team possible with the least inconvenience to everyone. You can request an inventory accuracy guarantee from an order fulfillment center. This will give peace of mind and open the possibility of accountability in case things go wrong.
Account for shrinkage during the holiday season
Shrinkage is a challenge for holiday fulfillment centers. Most allow for up to 3% in shrinkage. Examples include: lost items, misallocations, breakage, and damage. However, during the holiday season, the margin of error narrows considerably. That means that if you have too much shrinkage, it will hurt your bottom line. Ultimately, you may lose customers and critical sales.
Ideally, you should find a 3PL provider that can guarantee zero shrinkage allowance. These are partners who are perfectly accurate and diligent in their work. The best result is a guarantee that every item that is managed by your fulfillment partner will find its way to your inventory and eventually reach your customers on time and intact.
Insist on 3PL accountability
Whereas perfection is ideal, it is rarely a reality. Expect that vendors and customers will make mistakes, just like your team will fail on certain occasions. Healthy business relationships allow for some flexibility so that you can catch errors before they become overwhelming in their consequences. The holiday season is particularly sensitive since a single mistake can have long-term and extensive consequences.
It is probably best if you have a pre-agreed latitude before you can trigger contractual consequences for a failure in performance. Always think about how your customers will be affected by errors before deciding which are egregious and which are forgivable. Your customers are your most valuable and fragile asset for the long-term survival of your business. The providers that compensate you for every mistake are ideal because they have an incentive to get it right. Where there is no accountability, the provider will continue making mistakes.
The holiday season is coming up and in full swing for many businesses. Those that are working in e-Commerce must contend with a strange year that was blighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, there is every indication that demand will continue to be high. The priority from a logistics point of view is to ensure that customers get their orders on time and in good condition. For this to happen, you need to plan and engage with your partners to ensure that they are vested in the same standards that you expect for your customers. Build on the knowledge and experience that you already have to ensure that this is a happy Christmas for everyone.