Does Your Order Fulfillment Process Have a Plan B

Online retailers can no longer ignore business emergencies happening in other countries. As Japan’s earthquake and tsunami quickly showed us, global businesses will be affected no matter how isolated or “location-proof” you think you may be.

Natural disasters are not the only threats facing an online retailer. Supply chain problems such as strikes, stock outs, fuel shortages, inclement weather, and fire outbreaks can prevent your business from getting your products to your warehouse, or worse, to your customers., As the current crisis in Libya, the instability of the Middle East, and the tragedy of 9/11 have all shown us that political upheavals, wars, and terrorist attacks impact your business no matter where you’re located or what industry you’re in. Do you have a Plan B to back you up when your normal supplier relationships and operational processes break down?

Here are some best practices to follow when creating your fulfillment backup plan: 

Never run out of options. Increase the number of supplier relationships within the supply chain to create backup providers, and strike a balance between local and global partners.

Select competent partners. Natural calamities may affect all supply chain partners, but some may be more prepared to handle them. Large and reputed partners may charge more, but may have backup processes and operational reliability for dealing with emergencies. Understanding how they would operate during an emergency can also help you streamline your process.

Finally, have a clear communication plan. Natural disasters are not under your control, and clients understand this fact. However, when your order fulfillment process falls behind during an emergency, it’s time to kick-start your communication process immediately. State the reason for the delay, apologize (even though it may be no fault of yours), explain what you are doing to resolve the situation, and indicate a timeframe when their orders would be fulfilled.  

A business contingency plan that anticipates and plans as much as possible for natural and man-made disasters is a must for any business. When you work with a trusted order fulfillment provider, all of the above practices are taken care of for your business by experts who have dealt with these situations before. At Fifth Gear, we are always looking out for ways to support your order fulfillment and supplier relationships. From customer contact centers to warehouses and ecommerce technology, we have systems and processes in place to help with all aspects of your ecommerce planning.  That even includes a Plan B!