What are the Steps Involved in Order Fulfillment?
Order fulfillment seems like an intuitive process: a company receives an order, processes it, and sends it out to the customer. What could possibly go wrong?
In fact, there are many issues that may arise throughout the order fulfillment process which can slow down orders and result in unhappy customers and sellers involved in the operation.
Therefore, it is important that companies engaged in order fulfillment follow a proven, step-by-step process that will guarantee results each and every time. In this article, we will outline the 5 most important steps that should be taken during the order fulfillment process to ensure a fully optimized and successful order fulfillment strategy.
Step 1: Receiving the Order
When the inventory first arrives at your facility, you have the option of handling it in one of two ways:
- “In-House” Receiving – In-house receiving implies that you have the responsibility of determining that the product is in good condition, applying a label to the product, and storing the goods (which will be covered in step 2).
- Outsourced/Third Party Receiving – Alternatively, you may elect to outsource your receiving services to a partner who will handle this portion of the order fulfillment process.
Step one in the order fulfillment process needs to be completed quickly and efficiently, regardless of whether you choose to outsource your receiving or perform these operations in-house.
Step 2: Storing the Order
The most critical part of the storage step is that you have a clear and coherent method for storing the goods. Everything should be labeled and every staff member who works in the warehouse should have a solid understanding of the storage and labeling system.
This is vitally important as, without an effective storage system, packages will frequently become lost or delayed in the fulfillment process and will cause you headaches down the line.
Step 3: Processing the Inventory
The processing of the order was hinted at in step one. This step involves inspecting the shipment to ensure it is:
- In Good Condition – This is a vital piece of your quality control process. Identifying damaged packages as early as possible cuts down on returns and wasted time later on in the process.
- Was Sent in the Correct Quantity – While you may not always be able to tell this immediately, if you are able to, it’s important to ensure that the correct number of items were received so that the customer does not have to go through the return process.
Assuming everything is in order, it’s time to move on to step four of the order fulfillment process.
Step 4: Shipping the Goods
After this step, the inventory is in the hands of a carrier who then takes the shipment to the customer. If all goes well, the process is complete and you need not worry about step five.
However, sometimes there are issues once the customer has a chance to inspect their item. This brings us to step five.
Step 5: Dealing with Returns
Returns have, for better or worse, become the norm in the age of e-commerce. Many customers now purchase items with the thought that they will likely return them.
Therefore, you must have a clear return policy in place. Preferably one that doesn’t leave you out to dry with handling the costs of these returns.
At first sight, order fulfillment is a logical, five-step process that starts with the seller and ends with the customer. However, this perspective does not account for any sort of deviations. There are variables that can turn the fulfillment process into something unmanageable quickly if care isn’t taken during each step. Some general things to keep in mind throughout the process are:
- Maintaining Transparency – In any venture, business, or relationship; a policy of transparency is of the utmost importance. You should implement technological methods that enable your customers and sellers to track the shipments in real-time. This allows them to plan for delays or other unexpected hurdles.
- Staying Organized – Keeping a clean and tidy warehouse may seem, on the surface, like a useless bit of advice. However, if things aren’t in good order, mistakes can happen more easily leading to lost inventory and worker injury. Organization is a key aspect of successful order fulfillment.
- Owning Mistakes – If you make a mistake, admit to it. Right away. The sooner you own up to the mistake, the sooner you can correct it and move on. Also, believe it or not, most people respect those who admit to mistakes more readily.