When your fulfilment centre lets you down – horror stories from entrepreneurs

22 March, 2021


Choosing the wrong fulfilment centre for your online store can cause serious problems as these 4 entrepreneurs testify.

Find out more about Asendia's ISO9001 certified fulfilment services


It’s any business owner’s worst nightmare, you’ve outsourced a part of your business to a third-party, they’ve made some promises about how well you’ll be looked after and after a good start, things start to go wrong.

While this isn’t something you want in any area of your business, it can be disastrous when it comes to your order fulfilment.

The success of your ecommerce business is dependent on getting a customer’s order to them swift, safe and secure – if this doesn’t happen then you may get away with a customer’s complaint direct to you and a second chance.

But it could also be much worse. A customer demanding a refund, lost business to a competitor, and poor reviews about your business, all because your fulfilment service didn’t do as they promised.

So, what can go wrong? We’ve looked at some genuine complaints made against order fulfilment centres and what they should have done to prevent things from going wrong.

Complaint one:

“What has disappointed us the most is their complete lack of customer service and care towards their customers. Phone calls do not get followed up, emails do not get answered for over two weeks and by that stage we have had to refund our customers for orders that were not shipped at our own cost.”

Solution: You customers expect a quality service from you, so you should be able to expect a quality service from whoever is looking after your delivery logistics and fulfilment process.

Shipping on time, packing accurately and proper management of stock levels in their fulfilment centre are the basics. All of the above could have been solved if there was a service level agreement in place that matched their shipping promise so they can deliver the standards you require.

Being able to offer a robust customer service for your customers to chase items, and for you to find out what has happened too, is vital. Make sure you check what customer service they offer and also have a look for independent professional accreditation, such as ISO9000 (Quality Management Systems).

Complaint two:

“This year we were given zero warning that Black Friday orders would be sent 10 days late and not same day dispatch as promised. This cost us many thousands and the worst thing is that they never even thought it appropriate to apologise.”

Solution: Communication is key. If your fulfilment provider is experienced, they’ll know key dates when things will be busy. They should warn you with plenty of notice if they expect delays and help you manage your customers’ expectations. You can then talk to them about suspending same-day delivery, or what needs to happen to keep all your delivery options in place.

Ultimately, if they value you as a customer, they’ll be constantly communicating with you to make sure you know what’s happening and checking you’re happy with their service.

Complaint three:

“They constantly got our products lost and shipped out late.”

Solution: A complaint like this really shouldn’t be necessary. Any fulfilment service worth their salt will have systems in place to make sure your stock is tracked so they know where it is at any time. Their fulfilment centre should have a dedicated shelf for your stock and staff assigned to look after your fulfilment.

They should also be fully aware of the delivery options you offer your customers so as soon as an order is received, they’re picking and packing in time for it to be shipped as expected.

Complaint four:

“The way they packed my products, used rubbish tape to close the boxes, didn't even make up the boxes correctly and didn't bother to pack the boxes correctly, resulting in broken goods and unhappy customers.”

Solution: You’re going to want to make sure your orders are packed properly, even if they’re going a short distance. But if you’re working with a fulfilment centre provider, the chances are your business is growing and your customers are further and further away.

You need to be sure your orders are packed to withstand transportation by road or air so your customer gets what they ordered safe and sound.

This complaint could have been easily prevented by not just using quality packing materials as standard but by also allowing the complainant to train the pick and pack team, so they knew how to pack their products safely.

A fulfilment provider’s staff are an extension of your own team so you should always be able to have access to train them as though they’re your own employees. If the fulfilment service you’re talking to doesn’t offer this, then walk away and find one who does.

Asendia employs 1,500 staff at 35 global locations delivering to 200 countries. We also have two UK fulfilment centres, and one each in Italy, Singapore, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Get in touch and see how Asendia would have avoided the mistakes above, including how we give our customers a chance to come and see how we do things and meet the staff who will look after your business as if it were their own.


top-tips_icon Top tip: You don't need to rely on what a fulfilment business says about their quality standards. There are independent benchmarks you can look at such as ISO certifications (ISO9001 for quality and ISO 14001 for environmental credentials), Warehouse Management Association accreditation and others. Also any credible fulfilment centre will happily provide references and we strongly recommend you get in touch with these existing customers of the fulfilment centre.




Asendia's fulfilment centres

With two ISO-certified fulfilment centres in the UK (Bedford and Southampton) and others across the world, Asendia has helped many online retailers optimise their fulfilment and shipping, freeing up time to focus on business development.

We can provide you with our order fulfilment prices within a useful spreadsheet that allows you to adjust order volumes, inventory, etc. to see how your costs might change as your business grows. We can send you customer testimonials and case studies too.

Find out more about our order fulfilment services

Request our order fulfilment pricing calculator


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