What's Your Contingency Plan for Your E-Commerce Order Fulfillment

Eric Pong
Logistics Strategy for Success International eCommerce Fulfillment

When you are developing a fulfillment system you need to plan for the unexpected.
There are several aspects of e-commerce order fulfillment that can go wrong and many different problems you might experience while operating your business, including the following:

  • Courier goes out of business,
  • Courier is too busy to take on extra work,
  • Key staff suffer an accident or illness,
  • Documents are lost in transit…

What happens if these do occur?
What can you do to keep your fulfillment running and to prevent a backlog of orders stockpiling in your warehouse – you need a Plan B.

What is a Plan B?

Simply put, a plan B is an alternative strategy you can implement immediately without the need to panic or deliberate.
These are designed so that should a problem happen you can quickly get the plan B into motion and keep your operations running smoothly.
All members of staff should be aware of the plan B, especially those in leadership positions.
At the same time, it can be a good idea to ensure your staff practice plan B from time to time.
New operational frameworks can be difficult for staff to implement if they have no experience of working with them.

Why is a Plan B Great?

A plan B helps you maintain professionalism even when things aren’t going to plan.
By easily switching from your usual system to a new one, your customers might not even realize that you’ve experienced a problem and believe that you have a highly efficient service. This can lead to more repeat business that is often cheaper to acquire.
Having a plan B in place also saves time in the switching phase as no research will have to be done.
For instance, should you need a new courier, having one as a backup will save you time going around finding out costs, etc.

How to Create an Effective Plan B

Creating your plan B is the most crucial stage of designing your fulfillment process flow.
There are several steps to creating an effective plan B that will help you maintain good composure and get orders out to your customers on time.
Here is our quick guide to creating your plan B:

Step One: Detail The Problems That Can Happen

The first thing you need to do is to detail what can happen to your fulfillment process.
No matter how unlikely, you need to consider every possibility as it will be the most unexpected event that will happen and when you aren’t prepared it could ruin your reputation.

Step Two: Detail The Possible Solutions

For every problem, list what could be done to solve the issue.
This could be hiring in new staff, offering overtime, finding a new courier, etc.
Each problem should have at least three or more solutions and with each solution should be a list of benefits and disadvantages.

Step Three: Conduct Further Research

Ensure that you know all the possible alternatives and what they offer your business.
When you don’t research prices or service levels, you might miss out on a good option because of the perceived value of another.

Step Four: Write Down Your Plan & Share It

Next you need to get everything set in writing.
Create a process for every eventuality and write it down on paper so anyone can refer to it.
Then share the plan with your staff and team leaders.
Everyone should know what the emergency plans are, so if something happens, they can switch immediately into that frame of mind and continue on working unhindered.

Step Five: Regularly Review

Every three to six months go back over your plan B and reassess it. Check for new solutions and decide if the current plan is still suitable.

Conclusion

Plan B may sound unnecessary, but it can help you maintain professionalism in an industry where things can go wrong. Creating and sharing your plan B with staff can help you keep your customers happy and returning no matter what happens.

  • Do you have a plan B?
  • Have you ever needed it?

 

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