When your customers have a positive experience with your brand, they develop brand loyalty and spread the word to family and friends. Obviously, the product itself is an important part of determining how happy your customers are, but it is not the only factor. The turnaround time between online order and delivery, the consistency of timely delivery of undamaged goods, the responsiveness to delivery issues, and the ease of returns all play into how your customer feels about your brand. In order to deliver on these crucial aspects, third party logistics (3PLs) give business owners tremendous advantages. 3PLs have the expertise and technology to support all aspects of product delivery. In this post, we’ll share some tips for choosing the best 3PL.

Look for a Partner, Not Just a Provider

When choosing a 3PL, it’s important to find a company that can truly meet your needs. In order to do that, you need one that actually understands your business. Find out if the 3PL has other clients in the same industry. How knowledgeable are they about what you do? Can the 3PL suggest options that you may not have considered, or simply follow your directions? If they don’t generally serve clients in your market, how willing are they to learn enough to provide the same kind of services as one that does? There’s a big difference between a 3PL that does work for you and a 3PL that works with you. You want a 3PL that understands your market and will coordinate with you to provide your customers with the best ecommerce experience possible.

Expect Expanding Needs

Right now, you might need a 3PL that provides shipping and delivery options. What about three months from now? Or next year? Surely you expect your business to thrive, and as it grows your needs will change. You want a 3PL that can grow with you. When you choose a 3PL, you should think strategically about your business future. When might packaging alternatives become necessary? Is there a time in the future where you can imagine assembly being outsourced? Trucking might be the best option now–maybe freight flights are in your future. The 3PL you decide on should have options available for scalability.

Assess Consumer Support

Remember that a large part of your customer’s experience will come from the processing, shipping, and delivery of the product. Can the customer track the shipment easily? A good 3PL should have the option of real-time tracking for the customer (as well as for you, of course). If there’s an issue, can your customers reach the 3PL and have their problem resolved? Or will your customer become frustrated by the attempt to get help, and blame you? Your customer support might be stellar, but if the 3PL doesn’t continue that kind of treatment, your customer will not make the distinction. Your reputation depends on the 3PL’s customer support.

Require A Streamlined Returns Process

Some of your customers will want to return items, and the returns process will reflect on you, not on the 3PL. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you work out an efficient, easy returns process with your 3PL. From your end, the 3PL should have technology that tracks your inventory and automatically adjusts it according to returns received and orders made. Ideally, your 3PL should act as an invisible intermediary between your customer and you. Your customer should feel like the return was simple and hassle-free, and you should be confident that your inventory is not over-stocked.

Build Your Brand Through Your 3PL

Your 3PL should be part of your brand support. That means that the 3PL supports your brand by providing exceptional delivery services; it can also mean much more. The least you can expect from your 3PL is that your reputation does not suffer. You could also have proactive brand support in everything from packaging to customer support. Perhaps you want to have your logo printed on the packaging; you can find a 3PL that does that. Maybe you want to include a printed note with your branding (in subscription boxes, for instance). You can even have the online ordering process include your branding at each step.

Remember these tips when you’re considering different 3PLs. Finding the right 3PL can go a long way in helping your business thrive.