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Order Fulfillment

Order fulfillment refers to the process that the company follows to fill your order. Well, that description helps a lot, now doesn't it? :^) In fact, order fulfillment should be pretty simple: if you order items that are in stock, the order should be filled and sent out in a prompt manner. Every company goes through a different internal process to fill orders, however, and you should try to assess how the prospective company does this, in general terms.

You can determine something of how the company works with its orders by asking questions. An important question to ask is how long the company takes to ship out orders. If you order an item that is in stock, early enough in the day, better companies will send the order out the same day. Sometimes there is a time deadline that you must order before in order to get "same-day shipment"; find out what it is. If orders aren't sent on certain days of the week, or there are other issues, the company should be able to tell you.

In addition, you will have to do your own research into the company to see what experiences others have had with getting orders filled. What you are particularly looking for is the company's past history of processing orders accurately and quickly. Some companies don't do a very good job of this: they drop line items from orders, or send the wrong items, or "misplace" orders for days causing delays.

Most well-regarded companies do a professional job of filling orders; a few like to "play games" when it comes to filling orders. The only way to insulate yourself from this to some extent is to thoroughly research your prospective vendors, and try to stick to ones that you know and trust. You may also want to check this list of danger signals that indicate potentially problematic vendors.

Tip: The most common "trick" that I see with the way companies fill orders is the credit-card precharge on backordered items. Find out if the company is going to do this before you place an order for anything that isn't in stock; if they are, and you don't like this (and who would?) shop elsewhere.

Next: Salespeople

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