A recent KANE blog argued the virtues of the invisible 3PL – a provider that operates so seamlessly -- anticipating and proactively solving the inevitable problems and hiccups that occur in any supply chain -- that there’s no need for you as a customer to even think about them on a daily basis.
An “invisible” 3PL works like the electricity grid. You notice it only when there’s a brown-out or power is cut – in other words, preferably, never.
But the party a 3PL should be least visible to, within our definition of invisibility, is not so much you, as a customer, but your own ultimate customer. When this happens, that’s the definition of logistics customer satisfaction.
As a shipper, you employ 3PL services because you’re looking for operational excellence. In the end, your profitability relies on keeping that end-customer’s business. Furthermore, being able to offer no-worries replenishment of goods via world-class logistics services is part of how you compete for and retain business. So a 3PL should be more than just a service provider; they should represent a competitive advantage.
What that means in practice is that your 3PL is often going to be in independent communication with your customer. That requires ceding a certain level of control and acknowledging an element of trust. It would be tough for them to take charge of delivery schedules without interacting with store loading docks or DCs.
3PL Communication with the Final Customer is Necessary to Deliver Logistics Customer Satisfaction
It’s worth taking a moment to review what, exactly, are the lines of communication between your 3PL and the recipient of your merchandise. Are they haphazard and most only used when things go wrong? Or are they more ongoing, such as the lines of communication between you and your end-customer?
On a practical level, as shipper, you should be able to trust your 3PL to take care of the business they’ve been hired to do – this is part of the whole “invisibility” idea. But, in an ideal scenario, we think 3PLs should be able to kick it up a notch and proactively meet with staff at your end-customers’ facilities to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
At KANE, for example, we often visit one of our Big Box customer’s actual stores and talk with store managers about how they like to receive pallets. For a pet food manufacturer, we take the time to visit their customers – pet product distributors – at the distributors’ warehouses to see how they like to receive goods.
There’s more to being an invisible 3PL than dodging the limelight. As a shipper, allowing – even encouraging – your 3PL to have a regular dialogue with your end customer is important. It reinforces that you, as a retail supplier, have a unified team of staff and partners that share the same goal of maximum logistics customer satisfaction.