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What is the Fulfillment Process
The fulfillment process is what happens in a company when an order for a product is received-the "fulfillment" of the order. This includes warehousing, finding the item ordered, packaging it, and shipping it to the right address.
It sounds straightforward. But because every company is different, the fulfillment process varies between companies. And the Internet has brought about some changes. In many businesses that have a strong e-commerce component, fulfillment can also entail maintaining online inventories, activating new accounts for online customers, and managing active customer lists.
Companies handle fulfillment two ways: by doing it in-house, or by outsourcing. Most new businesses start out doing their own fulfillment, and while your business is small, this is the best and most cost-effective choice. As your business grows, however, consider how much time fulfilling orders takes up for you and your employees. Generally speaking, if your business reaches a point where you could make more money focusing on other areas-such as product research and development, for example, or sales and marketing-it's time to think about outsourcing fulfillment.
If you are considering outsourcing your fulfillment, you're in good company. There are thousands of fulfillment centers throughout the country working with companies of all sizes. Most fulfillment centers will offer you the following basic services:
Warehousing.Your fulfillment center should store your inventory for you off-site. They will generally order new products from the business when they run low, and most will allow you to monitor the inventory online.
Order processing.When your business receives an order from a customer, your company passes it on to the fulfillment center, usually online-invoices can be emailed or organized into spreadsheets, which are automatically sent on. The fulfillment center will then select the item from your inventory and make sure it gets to the right address. Packing and shipping is automated at most of the larger fulfillment centers.
Returns and exchanges.The fulfillment center will take care of all your customers' return and exchange requests for you according to your company's policies. The fulfillment center staff will examine returned items to determine whether they can be resold.
Competition is fierce in today's e-commerce market. Many companies use fulfillment as a way to stand out from their competitors, and a greater demand for specialty fulfillment services has led to a change in the fulfillment center industry. Today, many fulfillment houses are automated so efficiently that they can send out most orders the same day they are received. In addition, some fulfillment centers take care of monogramming, gift-wrapping, and other personalizations.
Because it is responsible for delivering your product to them, your customers get their most personal interactions with your company through the fulfillment department. If the order is wrong or damaged, your customers will get the impression that your company doesn't care about them. However, if it gets the product out in time, personalized, or meets an important deadline such as a birthday or holiday, there's a strong chance your customer will come back for more. Good fulfillment is a crucial part of any business.