An integral part of your business operations, it’s important to have a 3PL provider managing your supply chain. That’s why you shouldn’t choose just anyone. But how do you decide who is best? While it’s not unusual to compare the pros and cons or read customer reviews, we recommend taking things a step further. In the same vein as finding a new employee, the best way to find out which 3PL company will work best with you is to interview your top prospects. While it might be a bit more work and require a bit more of your time, it’ll be worth it in the end. If what you’re after is peace of mind, then the following questions should be at the top of your list.
Question #1: How do you meet my e-commerce needs?
Make sure you understand who you’re hiring before you hire them. Although they might be similar, no two businesses are the same. In the ever-changing and always developing world of e-commerce, it’s important to know how a prospective 3PL company can meet your exact shipping needs. Believe it or not, there are logistic companies out there who don’t deal in e-commerce or, as a result of demand, they’re new to it. With that said, if you’re an e-commerce business, it’s important to choose a company that can meet your demands. To find the perfect match, don’t settle for a company that just meets e-commerce needs in general but yours specifically.
Question #2: What logistical services do you offer?
When it comes to shipping freight, every business has their preferred method. You have yours, and a 3PL company has theirs. You want to make sure everything aligns. But you also want to make sure you have options and that the company you choose is willing to accommodate. Many companies claim to be a “one-stop” shop—but not all of them are. It’s important to probe your potential 3PL company to find out if they really are what they claim to be. It might seem obvious, but sometimes the most obvious questions are the ones we often forget to ask. Believe us, you don’t want to fall into any traps, especially when it comes to your freight.
Question #3: To what extent do you assume liability, and how are claims handled?
Two-part questions have a way of catching people off guard. Everyone loves them, but no one enjoys answering them—and that’s what makes two-part questions so great. Liability assumption is such an important facet of shipping (whether it’s domestic or international), which is why we recommend using this question as your surprise attack. The right coverage will give you peace of mind, but moreover, it helps ensure better customer service.
Question #4: How have you handled or corrected errors in the past?
This is a multi-faceted question. On one hand, it’s a way for you to see the mistakes a company has made. On the other hand, it reveals the ways in which the company your interviewing has dealt with those mistakes. Early mistakes aren’t always a bad thing, and we caution against any 3PL company that hasn’t made mistakes. Ideally, you’ll want to find a company that has grown from their mistakes. Their recent track record and customer reviews should be proof of their improvements, to be sure, but hearing from the company itself is always recommended. Dealing with mistakes also means you know how to solve them, should they or something similar ever occur.
Question #5: How up-to-date is your TMS?
Recording data with a pen and paper is a thing of the past. You don’t want to work with a company that’s stuck in the Stone Age. A company with an up-to-date TMS won’t only save you money, it’ll save you headaches. Plus, a technologically advanced TMS means better customer service, and better customer service means happier customers.
Question #6: How flexible are you with transporting freight?
This is a great question because it’s really asking, “How do you see us working together to achieve our goals?” It should come as no surprise, but you want to find a company that’s flexible and willing to work with you to achieve your freight shipping needs. Not every shipment is a priority, and as such, not every shipment needs the fastest means of transportation (which usually indicates you’re spending more money). Understanding how a company is willing to work with you—and understanding how they’ve worked with clients in the past—will go a long way to a satisfying and lasting relationship.
Question #7: What do your awards mean to you?
Sometimes, companies don’t always list awards on their websites or make their accomplishments well known. Sometimes, companies do. If you’re interested in a 3PL provider who falls into the first camp, it’s in your best interest to inquire about any merits. If you’re interested in a company who falls into the second camp, see if you can get them to talk about their achievements. Which ones are they most proud of—and why? How do they plan to win the same award next year? What award would they like to win that they haven’t won already? Questions like these will give you a good (if not a better) understanding of what a company is all about. Awards are very telling, as they recognize some sort of positive action or good deed. But awards are more than just stickers on the back of a company truck or plaques along an office wall, which is why it’s important to figure out what each award means to each 3PL provide you interview.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, there are plenty of others questions you can (and should) ask. As a general rule of thumb, keep your questions tailored to your specific industry and, more importantly, your business. After all, no two companies are created equal—and what might work for some, might not work others. Call us biased, but we can’t recommend ourselves enough.
If you’re interested, you’re more than welcome to contact us today. We’re ready to answer any questions, and we welcome our potential partnership with open arms.
Whether you're a company looking to improve one facet of your supply chain, your entire supply chain, or simply looking for a transportation and logistics consultation, we can help.